At least 146,000 female migrant domestic workers—and possibly many more—are employed in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Labor recruiters in their home countries, mostly in Asia and Africa, entice many of these women with promises of high wages and good working conditions. Recruiters convince them that this could provide a route out of poverty and the means to obtain an education, homes, medical care, and other essentials for their families. Sadiyah A., a 36-year-old Filipina domestic worker, told Human Rights Watch that she saw a job in the UAE as a “golden opportunity.”
Migrating for work can certainly provide an opportunity, but only if the worker’s human rights are respected. Some female domestic workers in the UAE have good and responsible employers, satisfactory working conditions, receive their wages in full and on time, and are able to remit money home to their families. But in many cases, employers in the UAE and recruiting agents abuse the women who become migrant domestic workers. Workers whom Human Rights Watch interviewed for this report described a range of abuses which they had experienced.
Most said their employers confiscated their passports. Some accused their employers of having physically abused them and confined them to the homes. Many said their employers had failed to pay the full wages due to them, had forced them to work excessively long hours without breaks or days off, or had denied them adequate food, living conditions, or medical treatment.
Some workers were employed in circumstances that amounted to forced labor or trafficking. For Sadiyah, the reality she encountered as a domestic worker in the UAE was far from the “golden opportunity” she expected. “I didn’t have a day off, I couldn’t sleep until they [the employers] go to bed, and they didn’t give me my salary,” she told Human Rights Watch.
The UAE, with its booming oil-based and trade economy, has long acted as a magnet for labor migration. Its emergence to become one of the world’s 10 richest countries with a gross domestic product (GDP) of US$383.8 billion is due in large part to the contract labor of an estimated 7.3 million migrant workers. Female domestic workers from countries such as the Philippines, Indonesia, India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, and Ethiopia comprise a significant but often overlooked part of this massive migrant community that, all told, amounts to 88.5 percent of the population of the UAE. The UAE should afford migrant workers enforceable legal rights and effective safeguards against exploitation and abuse, as international law requires.
To read the full report: https://www.hrw.org/sites/default/files/reports/uae1014_forUpload.pdf