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    Default Gulf Torture, Human Rights Abuse & Slavery system

    Bahrain to end 'slavery' system

    By Mohammed Harmassi

    Bahrain has announced it will scrap its sponsorship system for foreign workers - a first in a region often criticised by rights groups over the issue.
    The system, known as "kafala", is used to monitor the number of foreigners working in Gulf Arab economies, which rely heavily on cheap foreign labour, mostly recruited from countries from the Indian subcontinent.

    Bahraini Labour Minister Majeed al-Alawi said the changes would be introduced in August.

    Mr Alawi said the main change in the regulations would mean foreign workers would now be directly sponsored by the Labour Authority and would not rely on their employers.

    The current system, which is common to all Gulf countries, has long been criticised by human rights groups for placing workers at the mercy of their employers.

    Employers usually take employees' passports when they enter the country and sometimes use possession of the travel documents to extort a large fee before the workers can leave the country.


    Gulf governments have historically welcomed immigrant workers on the assumption that nationals will not do many jobs, which they consider to be below them.

    Despite this, Majeed al-Alawi told BBC Arabic radio that the new system would form part of a broader initiative to place a ceiling on the number of expatriate workers in Bahrain.

    The US State Department in 2008 placed Bahrain in tier two - out of three - of its annual human trafficking report for not fully complying with minimum standards to stop the trafficking of people for forced labour or the sex trade.

    Labour ministers of other Gulf countries have agreed that the present sponsorship system needs to be overhauled.

    The system means that expatriate workers can enter, work, and leave the host country only with the permission or assistance of their sponsor.
    Many sponsors exploit the system to make money.

    Since the 1970s, there has been a significant increase in the number of immigrants working in the states of the Gulf Cooperation Council or GCC (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates).

    The pattern of immigration has also changed as South and Southeast Asian migrant workers have replaced Arab migrants.

    They now constitute as much as 90% of the foreign workforce in some GCC States.

    The "kafala" system has become the legal basis for residency and employment.

    Migrant workers receive an entry visa and a residence permit only if a GCC citizen or a GCC institution employs them.

    Sponsorship requires the sponsor-employer to assume full economic and legal responsibility for the employee during the contract period.

    The worker can only work for the sponsor and is entirely dependent on their sponsor to remain in the country.


    In many GCC States, the sponsor is legally able to confiscate the passports of employees until their contract has ended.

    Bahrain's Labour Minister Majeed al-Alawi likened the current system to slavery.

    Women employed in domestic service are particularly vulnerable.
    If an employee sues their sponsor for violating labour practices, there is generally no form of unemployment protection while the case is pending in the legal system.

    And even if the worker wins the case, the usual result is for the sponsor contract to be terminated, meaning that the worker has to leave the country.

    While the "kafala" system provides the state with an important means for monitoring labour flow, these policies can infringe the rights of workers as they are often used to deny them justice and basic protection.

    This is the system that Bahrain says it is now committed to change.



    Now if we can get other stupid arab states to also end their SLAVERY system!

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    Kuwait follows Bahrain in easing sponsorship terms

    August 05, 2009

    Manama: Foreigners in Kuwait will be able to sponsor themselves if they maintain an impeccable record after a two-year stay in the country, the social affairs and labour minister has said.

    The move is part of a plan to put an end to the sponsorship system that Kuwait is determined to cancel, Mohammad Al Affassi said.

    "I am serious about finding a solution to the issue, particularly that it affects the reputation of Kuwait and has highly significant humanitarian dimensions. Putting an end to the sponsorship system also means the elimination of trafficking in residence and work permits," Al Affassi was quoted as saying by Al Dar daily.

    The minister has recently been calling for an end to the "kafala" system and his latest statement was made four days after Bahrain implemented a decision to scrap the controversial sponsorship system, allowing foreigners to switch jobs without the consent of the employer. Bahrain's move was praised by human rights organisations and several embassies, but harshly criticised by the local business community on the grounds that it would hurt the economy and disrupt social agreements.

    Under the sponsorship system, a foreigner cannot enter or leave the country or move to another employer without the specific approval of the sponsor. The system, which has no legal anchor, has been put in place to preserve the interests of the employers and regulate the entry and exit of foreign workers.

    Bahrain in May said that it was doing away with the system, citing keenness to apply international human rights practices and a desire to regulate its labour market overwhelmingly dominated by foreigners, mainly unskilled workers from India and Pakistan.

    Qatar weeks later said that it was closely monitoring developments in Bahrain to assess the situation, but without making official commitments.

    The Kuwaiti minister's announcement is seen as a reinforcement of the overall Gulf officials' drive to address a situation that is unique in the world.

    "The ministry will put out several regulations to ensure the existence of specific and clear laws. Foreigners should not be abused and the ones who can prove after two or three years of their stay in Kuwait that they have an excellent record of good behaviour will be allowed to sponsor themselves..." Al Affassi said.

    Kuwait plans to scrap sponsor system

    11 September 2009

    KUWAIT CITY – Kuwait will soon start a gradual process of scrapping the sponsorship system for foreign workers, a minister said in press comments Thursday.

    Under the scheme, applied in most other Gulf states, foreign workers must be sponsored by a local businessman. Rights groups say that the system spawns widespread abuses.

    “The ministry plans to scrap the sponsorship system for certain categories of expatriates provided they have a clean security record,” Social Affairs and Labor Minister Mohammed Al-Afasi said in comments published in Al-Anbaa daily.

    Al-Afasi said under the plan, exempted workers can sponsor themselves and will enjoy full freedom of movement and choosing jobs.

    The minister did not specify the groups to be covered but said this will depend on the duration of their stay in Kuwait and type of work.

    “The sponsor system is against human liberty,” said the minister.

    “The current situation is almost chaotic with regards to the exploitation of foreign workers and depriving them of many rights stipulated by the law.”

    Under the sponsor system, foreign workers are bonded to their employers and have no right to move to other jobs without the prior approval of their current employers.

    However, Al-Afasi last month allowed workers who served for three years with one employers to seek other jobs without prior permission.

    Of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states, only Bahrain has relaxed the sponsorship requirements.

    The sponsorship system provides governments with an important means for monitoring labor flow.

    About 13 million foreign workers, live in GCC which has a population of around 35 million.

    Kuwait new labour law to abolish sponsorship system

    October 07, 2009

    Manama: Kuwait's new labour law draft will include a government suggestion to abolish the sponsorship system and to set up a non-profit authority to oversee the conditions and status of expatriates, the social affairs and labour minister has said.

    "The authority will also be tasked with assessing the needs of private and public establishments and companies in human resources and will cooperate closely with the relevant embassies on Kuwait's needs for foreign workers," Mohammad Al Afassi said.

    The proposed changes will also call for a separation between the labour and social affairs to help set up an independent labour authority that will tackle the huge responsibilities, the minister said in a statement to Al Qabas daily.

    Kuwait, under Al Afassi, has been pushing for a better deal for the hundreds of thousands of expatriates living in the northern Arabian Gulf state. The sponsorship system, kafala, mandates that expatriates be sponsored by a local employer to obtain a work and a residence permit, giving sponsors the possibility to control a foreign worker's entry into and departure from the country as well as his legal and professional status.

    "We totally reject the violation of the expatriates' rights and we will confront all visa traffickers," Al Afassi said.

    The labour law draft is expected to be reviewed by the parliament during the new term. Several lawmakers have supported the efforts to adopt new laws regulating the labour market among mounting opposition from several quarters.

    The fight against traffickers in people should see active participation from several officials, Badr Al Douwaila, a former labour minister, said.

    "The war on the phenomenon of trafficking in residence permits and the drive to name and shame traffickers should be confined to one minister. All those involved in such malpractices, be their state employees, business people, will be denounced because this is matter about the reputation and the destiny of a country," he told Al Qabas.

    At a press conference following a meeting with representatives of the International Labor Organization (ILO) visiting Kuwait, social affairs and labour undersecretary Mohammad Al Kandari said that "Self-employed expatriates such as carpenters, blacksmiths, barbers, butchers and mechanics, will be allowed to sponsor themselves and will not have to be under a Kuwaiti sponsor."

    The move is one of the several steps the government is mulling as an alternative to the sponsorship system, he said.

    ILO regional manager Nada Al Nashef welcomed moves by Kuwait to scrap the sponsorship system, saying that Kuwait was among the first countries that sought assistance from the ILO to carry out studies to find alternatives to the system.

    The ILO official said that she looked forward to the adoption of the new labour law that would abolish the sponsorship system.

    Bahrain in August became the first Gulf cooperation Council country to scrap the system, a move that was warmly welcomed by labour and rights activists, but fiercely resisted by several businesses.

    Bahrain said that by allowing foreign workers to switch jobs without the consent of the employers, it sought to rectify a wrong situation that Majeed Al Alawi, the labour minister and the driving force behind the move, likened to "modern-day slavery."

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    *Interior Ministry lifts 6-month re-entry ban*
    AMIR SOHRAB - 09 Jul 2008

    The Ministry of Interior has announced that effective 21 August 2008, it will stop stamping the six-month re-entry ban on the passports of expatriate workers in the private sector whose residence visas have been cancelled. As a result, expatriate workers whose residence visas had been cancelled can now re-enter the UAE on any type of visa, other than employment. Moreover, a source from the labor ministry confirmed that with the lifting of the ban, the 'No Objection Certificate' (NOC) would no longer be required for expatriate workers seeking a job transfer. The approval of the old sponsor would be in the form of affixing his signature on the sponsorship transfer application form, which would also bear the signature of the new sponsor. Expatriate employees welcomed the new policy for providing them freedom to change jobs. Employers, however, also want appropriate checks and balances to be in place to prevent anyone from taking undue advantage of the situation.

    *UAE citizenship for highly-skilled professionals *
    Labor Minister Dr. Ali bin Abdullah Al Kaabi recentlyproposed the granting of UAE citizenship to a select category of highly qualified and skilled professionals who have the potential to contribute to national development. According to the minister, such a move would allow the country to benefit from the expertise of these professionals.

    *Interior Ministry introduces new 90-day mission entry visa*
    Interior Minister Lt. Gen, Shaikh Saif bin Zayed Al Nahyan has decreed theintroduction of a new 90-day entry visa. The new three-month visa called, the Mission Entry Visa, will be issued to expatriate workers hired for short-term special projects for an initial fee of Dh600. This new visa can be renewed for another three months for a fee of Dh1,200. The Mission Entry Visa can be issued to engineers, doctors, lawyers and technicians to carry out an urgent or emergency assignment for a licensed company or a public or private institution duly registered in the UAE. The spouse and children can accompany the visa holder. The new visa was allegedly designed to simplify the recruitment process for the employment of select foreign temporary workers and, at the same time, put an end to the abuse of the visit visa for employment purposes.

    *Category A companies predominate *
    The classification of companies based on the percentage of their work force belonging to the same nationality is as follows: firms with 30 percent or less are under category A, while those with 31 to 74 percent are under category B and those listed as category C are firms with over 75 percent of staff having the same nationality. According to the Labor Ministry, out of some 440,000 companies registered in the UAE, 359,000 are of 81.8 percent in category A; 36,000 are in category B; and 44,000 are in category C. In terms of number of workers, category A companies employ about 18 per cent or 450,000 out of 2.5 million expatriate workers in the country. However, a senior ministry official cautioned that the data could be deceiving since many of the companies in category A have either closed down or actually employ fewer than four workers, thus exempting them from the mixed-nationality and emiratization requirements.

    *Construction firms strive to diversify workforce*
    Assistant undersecretary for labor Humaid bin Dimas clarified that even if the construction industry were not subject to the emiratization quota, the Labor Ministry would nevertheless recognize the companies' initiatives to meet the two percent annual quota imposed on commercial companies with 50 or more workers. Hence, construction companies, which rely heavily on thousands of foreign laborers, have a chance to be upgraded from category B or C to category A if they meet the stipulated criteria, as well as the emiratization quota and diversification of culture requirements. This has prompted a number of companies to startdiversifying the nationalities of their laborers to conform to the prescribed culture balance.

    *Shelter for runway Filipino domestic workers*

    Philippine labor attach in Dubai Vicente Cabe confirmed that the consulate has provided shelter to more than 60 runaway Filipino domestic workers who were seeking protection from abusive employers. According to Cabe, 90 percent of the runaway domestic workers who have sought refuge at the consulate accused their employers of non-payment of wages while others complained of verbal abuse, ill treatment or sexual harassment. Cabe also expressed concern over the recent surge in the number of runaway domestic workers, which is putting a strain on the shelter's capacity. Meanwhile, a group of overseas Filipino workers in the Philippines has asked Manila to file a formal protest and to review its diplomatic ties with the UAE in the light of increasing reports of abuses of Filipino domestic workers.

    *Longer break for outdoor laborers*
    Last June, the Cabinet passed a resolution allowing a longer mid-day break, from 12:30 pm to 4:30 pm, for all outdoor laborers during the summer months of July and August. Workers who are denied this entitlement are encouraged to complain to the ministry.

    *One-stop shop for immigration transactions*
    The Abu Dhabi Naturalization and Residency Department is ready to set up a one-stop Special Services Office to speed up processing of all immigration and naturalization transactions. The one-stop shop, to be operated by qualified personnel using the latest technology, is intended to enhance UAE's image as a "modern, red tape-free" country.

    *Afghan workers urged to obtain new travel documents*
    Afghanistan's consul-general in Dubai , Rashid Mohammadi, has called on some 30,000 Afghan expatriates in the UAE who are still holding Pakistani passports to get their proper travel documents from the Afghan consulate. According to Mohammadi, the consulate handles the cancellation of Pakistani passports and re-issuance of Afghan passports at an average of 20 cases daily. During the war in Afghanistan, many of its citizens crossed over to Pakistan , where they later acquired passports for their travel to the UAE and other Gulf countries in search of employment.

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    The dark side of Dubai

    Hidden in plain view

    There are three different Dubais, all swirling around each other. There are the expats, like Karen; there are the Emiratis, headed by Sheikh Mohammed; and then there is the foreign underclass who built the city, and are trapped here. They are hidden in plain view. You see them everywhere, in dirt-caked blue uniforms, being shouted at by their superiors, like a chain gang – but you are trained not to look. It is like a mantra: the Sheikh built the city. The Sheikh built the city. Workers? What workers?

    Every evening, the hundreds of thousands of young men who build Dubai are bussed from their sites to a vast concrete wasteland an hour out of town, where they are quarantined away. Until a few years ago they were shuttled back and forth on cattle trucks, but the expats complained this was unsightly, so now they are shunted on small metal buses that function like greenhouses in the desert heat. They sweat like sponges being slowly wrung out.

    Sonapur is a rubble-strewn patchwork of miles and miles of identical concrete buildings. Some 300,000 men live piled up here, in a place whose name in Hindi means "City of Gold". In the first camp I stop at – riven with the smell of sewage and sweat – the men huddle around, eager to tell someone, anyone, what is happening to them.

    Sahinal Monir, a slim 24-year-old from the deltas of Bangladesh. "To get you here, they tell you Dubai is heaven. Then you get here and realise it is hell," he says. Four years ago, an employment agent arrived in Sahinal's village in Southern Bangladesh. He told the men of the village that there was a place where they could earn 40,000 takka a month (£400) just for working nine-to-five on construction projects. It was a place where they would be given great accommodation, great food, and treated well. All they had to do was pay an up-front fee of 220,000 takka (£2,300) for the work visa – a fee they'd pay off in the first six months, easy. So Sahinal sold his family land, and took out a loan from the local lender, to head to this paradise.

    As soon as he arrived at Dubai airport, his passport was taken from him by his construction company. He has not seen it since. He was told brusquely that from now on he would be working 14-hour days in the desert heat – where western tourists are advised not to stay outside for even five minutes in summer, when it hits 55 degrees – for 500 dirhams a month (£90), less than a quarter of the wage he was promised. If you don't like it, the company told him, go home. "But how can I go home? You have my passport, and I have no money for the ticket," he said. "Well, then you'd better get to work," they replied.

    Sahinal was in a panic. His family back home – his son, daughter, wife and parents – were waiting for money, excited that their boy had finally made it. But he was going to have to work for more than two years just to pay for the cost of getting here – and all to earn less than he did in Bangladesh.

    He shows me his room. It is a tiny, poky, concrete cell with triple-decker bunk-beds, where he lives with 11 other men. All his belongings are piled onto his bunk: three shirts, a spare pair of trousers, and a cellphone. The room stinks, because the lavatories in the corner of the camp – holes in the ground – are backed up with excrement and clouds of black flies. There is no air conditioning or fans, so the heat is "unbearable. You cannot sleep. All you do is sweat and scratch all night." At the height of summer, people sleep on the floor, on the roof, anywhere where they can pray for a moment of breeze.

    The water delivered to the camp in huge white containers isn't properly desalinated: it tastes of salt. "It makes us sick, but we have nothing else to drink," he says.

    The work is "the worst in the world," he says. "You have to carry 50kg bricks and blocks of cement in the worst heat imaginable ... This heat – it is like nothing else. You sweat so much you can't pee, not for days or weeks. It's like all the liquid comes out through your skin and you stink. You become dizzy and sick but you aren't allowed to stop, except for an hour in the afternoon. You know if you drop anything or slip, you could die. If you take time off sick, your wages are docked, and you are trapped here even longer."

    He is currently working on the 67th floor of a shiny new tower, where he builds upwards, into the sky, into the heat. He doesn't know its name. In his four years here, he has never seen the Dubai of tourist-fame, except as he constructs it floor-by-floor.

    Is he angry? He is quiet for a long time. "Here, nobody shows their anger. You can't. You get put in jail for a long time, then deported." Last year, some workers went on strike after they were not given their wages for four months. The Dubai police surrounded their camps with razor-wire and water-cannons and blasted them out and back to work.

    The "ringleaders" were imprisoned. I try a different question: does Sohinal regret coming? All the men look down, awkwardly. "How can we think about that? We are trapped. If we start to think about regrets..." He lets the sentence trail off. Eventually, another worker breaks the silence by adding: "I miss my country, my family and my land. We can grow food in Bangladesh. Here, nothing grows. Just oil and buildings."

    Since the recession hit, they say, the electricity has been cut off in dozens of the camps, and the men have not been paid for months. Their companies have disappeared with their passports and their pay. "We have been robbed of everything. Even if somehow we get back to Bangladesh, the loan sharks will demand we repay our loans immediately, and when we can't, we'll be sent to prison."

    This is all supposed to be illegal. Employers are meant to pay on time, never take your passport, give you breaks in the heat – but I met nobody who said it happens. Not one. These men are conned into coming and trapped into staying, with the complicity of the Dubai authorities.

    Sahinal could well die out here. A British man who used to work on construction projects told me: "There's a huge number of suicides in the camps and on the construction sites, but they're not reported. They're described as 'accidents'." Even then, their families aren't free: they simply inherit the debts.

    A Human Rights Watch study found there is a "cover-up of the true extent" of deaths from heat exhaustion, overwork and suicide, but the Indian consulate registered 971 deaths of their nationals in 2005 alone. After this figure was leaked, the consulates were told to stop counting.

    At night, in the dusk, I sit in the camp with Sohinal and his friends as they scrape together what they have left to buy a cheap bottle of spirits. They down it in one ferocious gulp. "It helps you to feel numb", Sohinal says through a stinging throat. In the distance, the glistening Dubai skyline he built stands, oblivious.


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    "Unimaginable working conditions and extreme exploitation," says a report from "Human Rights Watch" describing how immigrant workers are treated in Saudi Arabia.

    Eight million foreign workers, mostly from Asian and African countries, work in a real hell there. These workers, making up a third of the population of the country, are tied hand and foot to their employers, deprived of any way to fight back. Slavery may have been officially abolished in Saudi Arabia – in 1962! – but immigrant workers continue to suffer under a form of "extreme exploitation," which is little more than slavery.

    The report testifies to impossibly long work days, with no breaks, unpaid overtime, even entire weeks or months of salary stolen, all kinds of bad treatment. A worker from Bangladesh worked 10 or 12 hours each day and sometimes all the night, without getting any extra pay, repairing underground tunnels in Tabuk. Unpaid for the first two months, he had to borrow money from his co-workers to eat. An Indian worker told of being paid $133 for a month of 16-hour workdays. A Filipino restaurant worker talked of working 16 and 18 hours per day. A Bengali working as a butcher was driven out of the country by his employer, who paid him NO salary for the six months he had worked.

    The situation of women workers is still worse. In addition to what the men suffer, they are shut up in buildings next to their workplaces, living packed into a tiny room with many other women. Add to that the women being raped and beaten by their employers, who know they can do what they want without the slightest consequence.

    On top of the horror inflicted by their bosses is the horror of what the Saudi state may do to the immigrant workers, hidden under a veil of secrecy. Foreign workers can be arrested after being denounced by their employer, thrown in jail on someone's whim. In jail they suffer not only isolation and beatings but sometimes torture and "confessions" extorted from them in a language they don't even understand. Some are condemned to death by having their heads cut off. Workers might simply disappear, with their spouses, parents, and children never knowing they were given a secret trial and executed. How many such cases are there, right this minute, of workers held in secret waiting for execution? No one knows.

    The responsibility for this situation certainly lies with the wealthy Saudi classes and the Saudi state administration – these feudal reactionaries who bring such pressure on hundreds of thousands of workers to keep the oil royalties flowing like water. But while oil makes the Saudi bourgeoisie rich, it makes the American, French and British oil company shareholders even richer.

    Behind the barbarous Saudis – and above them – stand the imperialist barbarians who are content to go along with this situation and who depend on this dictatorship to maintain order for them.


    A morally bankrupt dictatorship built by slave labour

    Dubai is finally financially bankrupt – but it
    has been morally bankrupt all along. The idea that Dubai is an oasis of freedom on the Arabian peninsular is one of the great lies of our time.

    Yes, it has Starbucks and Dunkin' Donuts and the Gucci styles, but beneath these accoutrements, there is a dictatorship built by slaves.

    If you go there with your eyes open – as I did earlier this year – the truth is hidden in plain view. The tour books and the bragging Emiratis will tell you the city was built by Sheikh Mohammed, the country's hereditary ruler.

    It is untrue. The people who really built the city can be seen in long chain-gangs by the side of the road, or toiling all day at the top of the tallest buildings in the world, in heat that Westerners are told not to stay in for more than 10 minutes. They were conned into coming, and trapped into staying.

    In their home country – Bangladesh or the Philippines or India –
    these workers are told they can earn a fortune in Dubai if they pay a large upfront fee. When they arrive, their passports are taken from them, and they are told their wages are a tenth of the rate they were promised.

    They end up working in extremely dangerous conditions for years, just to pay back their initial debt. They are ringed-off in filthy tent-cities outside Dubai, where they sleep in weeping heat, next to open sewage. They have no way to go home. And if they try to strike for better conditions, they are beaten by the police.

    I met so many men in this position I stopped counting, just as the embassies were told to stop counting how many workers die in these conditions every year after they figured it topped more than 1,000 among the Indians alone.

    Human Rights Watch calls
    this system "slavery." Yet the Westerners who have flocked to Dubai brag that they "love" the city, because they don't have to pay any taxes, and they have domestic slaves to do all the hard work. They train themselves not to see the pain.

    But Dubai's bankruptcy does not end there: it is ecologically bust. This is a city built in the burning desert, where everything shrivels up and blows away if it is not kept artificially cold all the time. That's why it has the highest per capita carbon emissions on earth – some 250 percent higher even than America's. The city has to ship in desalinated water – which is more costly than oil. When it runs out of cash, it will run out of water.

    Today Dubai will be bailed out by the United Arab Emirates, the oil-rich country of which it is only one state. But the oil will not last forever. More importantly,
    there is no Bank of Morality that could provide a bailout for this sinister mirage in the desert.

    More from Johann Hari

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    Saudi Media Acknowledges that Sponsor Abuse Drives Maids to Suicide

    The Arab Times, Saudi’s leading English-language paper recently published a report about the prevalence of suicide by housemaids as a result of abuse and maltreatment. Most recently, a 30-year-old maid committed suicide in Saudi on February 26.

    Below is the article by Arab Times. This article is important because too often regional papers attribute the suicide of migrant workers to mental illness and causes other than abuse by sponsors. We hope that with the realization that this desperate acts are committed because of maltreatment, abusive sponsors will be held accountable for triggering the suicide of their workers.

    ‘Abuse pushes maids to end their lives’
    By Rima Al-Mukhtar | Mar 6, 2010

    JEDDAH: Housemaids are claiming violence and mistreatment are the main reasons why many of them try to end their lives.

    In the last couple of years there have been countless reports of abuse in the media, including testimonies from maids about the withholding of salaries, verbal or physical abuse and restrictions on their movements.
    “Maids never have the intention to kill themselves, but circumstances put them in a place where they are facing a dead end,” said a recruitment officer.

    Maids who are physically or emotionally abused have no choice but to either run away or attempt suicide. Those maids are expected to work around the clock, sleeping for only two or three hours a night.

    “I worked in a house where the sponsors used to feed us one meal a day and lock the fridge later to make sure we didn’t eat anything else,” said Salma, an Indonesian housemaid.

    Earlier this year, a maid tried to hang herself from the ceiling. Another tried to drink detergent to end her life. Yet another threw herself from the window of a building. The lucky ones were saved. Maids are also beaten up or sexually abused by their sponsors. An Arab News report published on Feb. 27 told the story of an Indonesian maid taken to hospital when she fell from the third floor of her sponsor’s building.

    The doctors later found that the maid had been beaten up and tortured and found burns and lashing marks on her back. They also detected internal bleeding and an injury to her head.

    Sponsors need to know that we are already humiliated by working as house maids,” said Tess, a Filipino housemaid. “And we don’t need any more insults to add to our misery. We are working for the money. If we didn’t need it we wouldn’t have left our family and friends in the first place.”
    Migrant workers were subject to abuses by state authorities and by private employers. Abuses by state authorities included detention without charge or trial, and abuses by employers included physical and psychological ill-treatment and non-payment of salaries.

    • Isma'il 'Abdul Sattar, a Pakistani national, reportedly remained in detention without charge or trial at al-Ruwais prison, Jeddah, having been arrested 10 years previously following a police raid on the company where he worked.

    • Nour Miyati, an Indonesian domestic worker, who was severely injured by her employer and then sentenced to 79 lashes by a court in Riyadh for accusing him of abuse, had her sentence overturned on appeal.
    Attached Files
    Last edited by islamirama; Feb-23-2011 at 12:22 PM.

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    Sri Lanka abuse 'rampant' in Gulf

    Tales of torture and abuse have emerged from the Gulf

    Gulf states are failing to curb serious abuses of Sri Lankan migrant workers employed as maids in their countries, a Human Rights Watch report has said.

    The US-based group says abuse of maids is rampant in the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Lebanon.

    Employers routinely confiscate domestic workers' passports and confine them to the workplace, the rights group says.

    The UAE has denied the charges, saying Human Rights Watch has ignored its efforts to improve workers' conditions.

    More than 660,000 Sri Lankan women work abroad as maids, nearly 90% of them in the Gulf countries.

    Abusive employers

    The 131-page report - called Exported and Exposed - documents the serious abuses that domestic workers face at every step of the migration process.
    Thousands of Sri Lankans head overseas for work each year

    "Governments in the Gulf expose Sri Lankan domestic workers to abuse by refusing to guarantee a weekly rest day, limits to the workday freedom of movement and other rights that most workers take for granted," said Jennifer Turner, a women's rights researcher at Human Rights Watch.
    "Too many abusive employers and unscrupulous labour agents get away with exploiting these workers without any real punishment."

    The report is based on 170 interviews with domestic workers, government officials, and labour recruiters conducted in Sri Lanka and in the Middle East.

    "Domestic workers typically labour for 16 to 21 hours a day, without rest breaks or days off, for extremely low wages of 15 to 30 US cents per hour," the report says.

    'Reform laws'

    Some domestic workers told Human Rights Watch how they were subjected to forced confinement, food deprivation, physical and verbal abuse, forced labour, and sexual harassment and rape by their employers.

    "The Gulf countries need to do a lot more to stop abuse of domestic workers," Ms Turner said.

    "The governments of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the UAE should extend labour laws to domestic workers, ensure their complaints can be heard and reform immigration laws so that workers aren't tied to employers."

    The rights group has also urged the Sri Lankan government to improve regulation and monitoring of recruitment agents, as well as services for abused workers in consulates abroad.

    The UAE has dismissed the charges. [no surprise there..]

    Migrant workers make up the largest net foreign exchange earner for Sri Lanka.

    The country has a huge unemployment problem, and often cannot dictate terms to richer nations.


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    Saudi Arabia: Migrant workers bought and sold for a song

    Date: 22/11/2009 - 15:05

    Thousands of Sri Lankans are trapped in a modern day ‘slave trading post’ in the Saudi city of Jeddah, with no way of returning home for lack of proper travel or work documents and finances, prompting the authorities to rush a senior delegation to assess the ground situation in this regard.
    President of the Association of Foreign Employment Agencies (ALFEA) W.M.P. Aponso told the Sunday Times the situation was worsening by the day as more and more Lankans both male and female were flocking to this so-called trading post in search of employment, sometimes offering their services in return for a meal.

    “This situation has remained for a considerable period of time, and the Saudi authorities are apparently turning a blind eye since repatriation of such large numbers would require a lot of money among other issues.
    They will not get involved and it is up to the authorities in Colombo to take serious action instead of letting the situation worsen even further”, Mr. Aponso said. The Sri Lankans are not alone. They are joined by thousands from other nations of South Asian countries such as India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, he added.

    S. Ruhunge, Additional General Manager (AGM) of the Sri Lanka Foreign Employment Bureau (SLFEB) said the recruiting agencies must take the blame for the current situation in Jeddah and even in other West Asian capitals.

    “Recruitment is carried out without proper screening of employers, such as their financial status, etc and this leads to complications such as the non-payment of wages leading to problems. The agents are merely interested in collecting the fees from the workers”, Mr. Ruhunge explained.
    In the case of Jeddah, the Deputy Minister for Foreign Employment, Mr. Hussein Bhaila along with officials from the SLFEB left for Riyadh on Monday this week to get a first hand account of the real situation and to try to help out with the co-operation of the local authorities, Mr. Ruhunuge added.

    He further said that a section of the Sri Lankans had even refused an offer to be accommodated at the embassy because repatriation takes a longer time owing to certain bureaucratic delays which are unavoidable.
    “Therefore they opt to sleep it out rough hoping they will be taken away by the local authorities and later repatriated to Colombo in a shorter period of time. The situation is very complicated”, Mr. Ruhunuge conceded.
    Actor turned politician Ranjan Ramanayake who has remained on a campaign to protect the rights of the migrant workers, --mainly women-- blamed both the state and the recruiting agencies for the current state of affairs in Jeddah.

    The two parties are liars. While the agencies are more interested in the fees they collect, the Bureau has a zero mechanism to monitor the recruiting system and gives minimum priority to the welfare of the migrant workers.

    Even in the case at Jeddah they had chased away the women who had sought refuge, including six pregnant mothers”, Mr. Ramanayake who is Leader of the Opposition in the Sabaragamuwa Provincial Council added.

    Author: Leon Berenger
    Published on: 15 November 2009
    Source: The Sunday Times (Sri Lanka)

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    New HRW Report Slams Gulf States for Migrant Abuses

    Human Rights Watch’s World Report 2010 is out now, and strongly condemns the Gulf states for failing to protect the rights of Migrant Workers. The full report is available here.

    The HRW report raises the issues of passport confiscation, abuses of domestic workers and bans on trade unions as key issues in the region. Bahrain and Kuwait have taken steps towards removing the kafala system, which ties the right of a migrant to remain in the country to the permission of his sponsor. However, a disturbing finding is that migrant domestic workers are excluded from the new legislation. This is particularly concerning to M-R.org given the spate of suicides and attempted suicides by distressed maids working in the region in recent months (see here and here)

    Here are some extracts:

    In May 2009 Minister of Labor Majeed al-Alawi announced a proposed revision to Bahrain’s kafala (sponsorship) system designed to reduce the risk of exploitation and abuse of migrant workers. The former system tied migrants’ work visas and immigration status to their employers, enabling employer abuses and preventing workers from changing jobs or leaving the country. Under the amended law, which was adopted on August 1, the government officially sponsors each worker, allowing him or her to more easily change employers. At this writing it remains unclear whether the reform has been fully implemented. Bahrain’s business community strongly opposed the changes, and workers still need the defacto sponsorship of an individual or company in order to remain in the country legally. Migrant workers complain that some employers illegally withhold passports and fail to pay wages.

    The amended law excludes migrant domestic workers, who are at especially high risk of abuse due to their isolation in private homes. In 2009 prominent cases involved physical abuse, forced confinement, and the death of domestic workers.
    Parliament in May 2009 debated a draft revision of the Labor Law that would incorporate more protective provisions on wages, working hours, and safety. However, it does not establish monitoring mechanisms for workers’ rights, and continues to exclude domestic workers from its protections. Approximately 700,000 migrant women—chiefly from Indonesia, Sri Lanka, and the Philippines—are employed in Kuwait as full-time live-in domestic workers. Their exclusion under the current labor law deprives them of protections afforded other workers, such as a weekly rest day and limits on working hours. Many domestic workers complain of confinement in the house, long working hours without rest, months or years of unpaid wages, and sometimes verbal, physical, and sexual abuse. Domestic workers who fled abusive situations at their workplace have often become stranded at their embassies, at deportation centers, or at recruitment agencies. In October 2009 Indonesia banned further migration of domestic workers to Kuwait in response to having 600 workers trapped in its embassy. A major barrier to the redress of labor abuses is the sponsorship (kafala) system [modern day slavery system] by which a migrant worker’s legal residence in Kuwait is tied to his or her employer, who serves as a “sponsor.” Migrant workers can only transfer employment with their sponsor’s consent, although a reform in August 2009 frees them of this requirement if they have worked more than three years (migrant domestic workers do not benefit from this provision).

    Sponsorship traps workers in abusive situations, including in situations of forced labor, and blocks their access to means of redress. If an employer withdraws sponsorship, workers who flee abusive workplaces can be arrested and deported for being out of status in the country. Kuwaiti law enforcement officials rarely bring to justice Kuwaitis who abuse their powers as sponsors.
    Saudi Arabia
    An estimated eight million largely Asian and Arab foreign workers fill manual, clerical, and service jobs. Many suffer multiple abuses and labor exploitation, sometimes rising to slavery-like conditions. A new anti-trafficking law passed in July set prison sentences of up to 15 years for forced labor. However, Saudi Arabia made little progress reforming the restrictive kafala (sponsorship) system that ties migrant workers’ residency permits to their employers, fueling abuses such as employers confiscating passports, withholding wages, and forcing migrants to work against their will.

    In July 2009 the advisory Shura Council extended some labor protections to the 1.5 million migrant domestic workers, but excluded the right of workers to leave the house or keep their passports, and obliges them to obey the employers. Asian embassies report thousands of complaints each year from domestic workers forced to work 15-20 hours a day, seven days a week, and denied their salaries. Domestic workers frequently endure forced confinement, food deprivation, and severe psychological, physical, and sexual abuse.

    Migrants sometimes face severe delays in the immigration and justice systems, and obstacles such as lack of access to interpreters, legal aid, or their consulates. Few migrants successfully pursue criminal cases against abusive employers. Following a dispute with his sponsor, officials on October 26 detained pending deportation Usama Hijazi, an Egyptian legal adviser living in Saudi Arabia for 16 years. Hijazi had just won a court ruling in his favor against his sponsor, granting him 155,000 riyal (US$41,000) and allowing him to transfer his sponsorship. Authorities repatriated Keni binti Carda, an Indonesian domestic worker, in late 2008 before she could formally complain about her employers causing her severe burns and prying out her teeth. She returned to Riyadh to press charges, but as of November 2009 criminal proceedings had yet to begin. In August Saudi morality police raided a shelter run by a Filipino support group, though prosecutors later dropped charges against 18 persons present.
    Many female domestic workers are subjected to unpaid wages, food deprivation, forced confinement, and physical or sexual abuse. In August 2009 the Philippines government paid to fly home 44 Filipinas who had been living for months at a shelter. The women were among 127 Filipinas, mostly housemaids, who fled their workplace after complaining of mistreatment, long working hours, insufficient food, and nonpayment of salaries. The standard contract for domestic workers introduced in April 2007 provides some protections and calls for “adequate breaks,” but does not limit working hours or provide for a weekly rest day, overtime pay, or workers’ compensation.
    Exploitation of migrant workers by construction companies across the country is also severe: abuses include maintaining unsafe working environments that contribute to avoidable illness or deaths, and withholding workers’ travel documents.

    On August 31, 2009, police and labor officials quickly dispersed a demonstration over low wages by as many as 2,000 striking migrant workers employed by construction and engineering company Al Habtoor in Dubai. A Ministry of Labor investigation into the strike cleared the company of any wrongdoing after determining it had not broken any rules regarding pay.
    The report also mentions the case of UAE royal family member Sheikh Issa bin Zayed al Nahyan who is still yet to be charged for torturing an Afghan migrant. Disturbing video footage of Al Nahyan whipping, beating and finally running over the man with his car in the desert was leaked in 2009.

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    Work is torture for Sri Lanka maids

    Frances Harrison
    BBC correspondent in Colombo

    What makes Kusuma cry is not the memory of repeated assaults but the look on her children's faces when they saw her in hospital.

    "After three months, I asked Madam for my salary and she started to beat me with iron bars and wooden sticks," the maid explains of her time in Saudi Arabia.

    "Sometimes she would take a hot iron and burn me or heat up a knife and put it on my body."

    Kusuma is still trying to understand why her employer treated her this way when she had not done anything wrong.

    Kusuma says that one day her employer just tired of her. The employer said they were going to the police station and that Kusuma would be arrested.

    Instead she just put her on a plane back to Sri Lanka, knowing she would never be prosecuted for torturing her.


    Sri Lankan Minister of Labour Mahinda Samarasinghe assures maids that the government "has been taking these issues up with the relevant authorities and they have been in the main responding positively".

    However, labour activists say it is essential Sri Lanka operates a blacklisting system for rogue employers.

    The minister says that will depend on the co-operation of the Saudi authorities, who have not yet agreed.

    A recent survey by Colombo University found a quarter of Sri Lankan maids had suffered problems such as abuse or lack of payment while abroad.

    The Bureau of Foreign Employment runs a counter at Colombo airport to help returning maids with problems.

    It says on average 50 a day come back in distress.

    Lebanon does operate a blacklist system for bad employers, but that did not help 41-year-old Soma, who recalls repeated rapes by the 18-year-old son of her female employer.

    "When I went to his bedroom he closed the door and removed my clothes and his. When I tried to resist he threatened to kill me," she says.

    Soma says she begged him to spare her on the grounds that she had a son his age.

    "Another day, his four friends came to the house. When I took tea to the room they closed the door and kept me on their laps and started to touch my body and abuse me," she says in tears. All the men then raped her.

    There was little comfort from Soma's employer, who seemed to think she had employed a prostitute for her son rather than a cleaner for her house.

    "I complained to his mother and she just said, 'I will give you pills to make sure you don't get pregnant' and she beat me."

    Soma eventually escaped from the flat and walked for four hours until she met by chance a Sri Lankan couple who took her home, fed her and took her to the embassy.

    Although the rapes were reported to the embassy and police, Soma was just put on a plane home. Nothing happened to her rapists.

    Training efforts

    "We are not in a position to say, 'Look here, ensure that all of these things are in place otherwise we will not send our people'," says Minister Samarasinghe about the need for better insurance and health cover if something does go wrong.

    Migrant workers make up the largest net foreign exchange earner for Sri Lanka and the country has a huge unemployment problem, so it often cannot dictate terms to richer nations.

    Training the maids about what to expect is a key issue.

    "If a person is trained at the Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment, I don't see that person will have a problem," says Shoaib Abdeen, who runs the Mount Lavinia school for maids.

    The government says all women going to Arabic countries have to take basic language courses and learn cooking.

    Those going to the more lucrative markets of Singapore, Hong Kong and Cyprus get extra classes like map reading.

    The maids are advised not to run away from their employer if they encounter problems but maintain a positive attitude.

    Given the high failure rate of women workers overseas, it might be better to teach an escape plan should the need arise.

    For legal reasons Kusuma and Soma are not the maids' real names

    Story from BBC NEWS:

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    Saudi maid verdict 'outrageous'

    Human Rights Watch has called on Saudi judges to overturn a decision to drop charges against a Saudi couple accused of severely abusing an Indonesian maid.

    A judge in Riyadh awarded $670 damages to the maid, Nour Miyati, but dropped all charges against her employers.

    The female employer, who admitted the abuse and was originally sentenced to 35 lashes, had her sentence overturned.

    Human Rights Watch said the ruling on Monday was "outrageous", and sent "a dangerous message" to Saudi employers.

    Ms Miyati, 25, contracted gangrene after allegedly being tied up for a month and left without food in 2005. She had to have several fingers and toes amputated.

    New York-based Human Rights Watch called for an appeals court to "impose stiff penalties on the employers, including imprisonment, and payment of significant financial compensation".

    Saudi officials have not commented on the report.


    Human Rights Watch says Ms Miyati was treated in a Riyadh hospital in March 2005 for gangrene, malnourishment and other injuries.

    All charges against Ms Miyati's male employer were dropped early in the investigation, Human Rights Watch says.

    On Monday a Riyadh judge found the female employer not guilty, despite her earlier admission and "compelling physical evidence", the group says.

    A prior Saudi judgement, subsequently overturned, had seen Ms Miyati convicted of falsely accusing her employers and sentenced to 79 lashes.

    Human Rights Watch said the latest ruling "sends a dangerous message to Saudi employers that they can beat domestic workers with impunity and that victims have little hope of justice".

    Rights organisations say many foreign domestic maids in Saudi Arabia work in harsh circumstances and often suffer abuse by their employers.

    The Saudi Labour Ministry has acknowledged some problems, but the government also says foreign workers' rights are protected under Islamic law.

    Story from BBC NEWS:

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    Nails removed from 'tortured' Sri Lankan maid

    Ms Ariyawathie (left) was deeply traumatised, doctors said

    Doctors have removed 13 nails and five needles from a Sri Lankan housemaid who said her employer in Saudi Arabia hammered them into her body.

    LP Ariyawathie, 49, told staff at Kamburupitiya Hospital her employer inflicted the injuries as a punishment.

    X-rays showed that there were 24 nails and needles in her body. Doctors said those remaining inside her body posed no immediate threat to her life.

    The nails were up to 2in (5cm) long, a hospital official said.

    "The surgery is successful and she is recovering now," Dr Satharasinghe said, according to news agency Associated Press.

    Ms Ariyawathie, a mother of three, underwent a three-hour procedure.
    Doctors said they would carry out further surgery later to remove the remaining nails.
    Ms Ariyawathie travelled to Saudi Arabia in March to become a housemaid.

    Doctors say this X-ray shows nails embedded in the housemaid's hand

    Last week, she flew back to Sri Lanka and was admitted to hospital in the south of the island, where she told doctors she had undergone abuse for more than a month.

    The doctors found 24 metal pieces in her legs and hands.

    She could not sit down or walk properly, doctors said.

    They said Ms Ariyawathie was deeply traumatised and unable to give full details of her experience.

    Meanwhile, Sri Lankan authorities have launched an investigation.

    "We have launched a strong protest with the Saudi government through the external affairs minister, but there has been no response yet," Kingsley Ranawaka, chairman of Bureau for Foreign Employment, told the BBC.

    Around 1.8 million Sri Lankans are employed abroad, 70% of whom are women.

    Most work as housemaids in the Middle East, while smaller numbers work in Singapore and Hong Kong.


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    Default Indonesia bans sending maids to Kuwait over abuse

    Indonesia bans sending maids to Kuwait over abuse

    by Elsa Baxter - 15 October 2009

    Indonesia has indefinitely suspended the traffic of domestic helpers to Kuwait due to concern over widespread abuse and exploitation by their employers, the labour ministry said Thursday.

    About 500 women with complaints ranging from physical beatings to the denial of pay are sheltering at the Indonesian embassy in the oil-rich Gulf emirate, awaiting assistance to be sent home, ministry spokesman Budhi Laksana told AFP.

    At Indonesia's request, Kuwait stopped accepting new maid arrivals on September 14, he said.

    "We have temporarily stopped sending domestic helpers to Kuwait since September 14 to protect our helpers who had problems with their employers there," Laksana said.

    "The suspension will go on indefinitely until the problems are sorted out."

    There are around 60,000 Indonesian domestic helpers in Kuwait and they are typically paid as little as 60 Kuwaiti dinars ($210) a month, he said.

    "Most said they were owed salaries and when they asked their employers for the money, they were beaten up and some ended up in hospital," Laksana said, referring to the 500 women at the embassy.

    Indonesia imposed a similar ban on sending maids to Malaysia in June, after a 43-year-old Malaysian woman was charged with causing grievous bodily harm by beating and scalding her Indonesian employee her with boiling water.

    "We haven't lifted the ban in Malaysia because the problems our helpers faced there haven't been solved," Laksana said.


    It's good the government finally banned their people from going to these Jahils. The governments of other countries should also make a criminal profile of these Arab abusers so that when ever they visit then they are arrested and punished for the abuse.

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    Slave labor conditions in Saudi Arabia: U.S. imperialism's staunch ally

    Sep 27, 2004

    "Unimaginable working conditions and extreme exploitation," says a report from "Human Rights Watch" describing how immigrant workers are treated in Saudi Arabia.

    Eight million foreign workers, mostly from Asian and African countries, work in a real hell there. These workers, making up a third of the population of the country, are tied hand and foot to their employers, deprived of any way to fight back. Slavery may have been officially abolished in Saudi Arabia – in 1962! – but immigrant workers continue to suffer under a form of "extreme exploitation," which is little more than slavery.

    The report testifies to impossibly long work days, with no breaks, unpaid overtime, even entire weeks or months of salary stolen, all kinds of bad treatment. A worker from Bangladesh worked 10 or 12 hours each day and sometimes all the night, without getting any extra pay, repairing underground tunnels in Tabuk. Unpaid for the first two months, he had to borrow money from his co-workers to eat. An Indian worker told of being paid $133 for a month of 16-hour workdays. A Filipino restaurant worker talked of working 16 and 18 hours per day. A Bengali working as a butcher was driven out of the country by his employer, who paid him NO salary for the six months he had worked.

    The situation of women workers is still worse. In addition to what the men suffer, they are shut up in buildings next to their workplaces, living packed into a tiny room with many other women. Add to that the women being raped and beaten by their employers, who know they can do what they want without the slightest consequence.

    On top of the horror inflicted by their bosses is the horror of what the Saudi state may do to the immigrant workers, hidden under a veil of secrecy. Foreign workers can be arrested after being denounced by their employer, thrown in jail on someone's whim. In jail they suffer not only isolation and beatings but sometimes torture and "confessions" extorted from them in a language they don't even understand. Some are condemned to death by having their heads cut off. Workers might simply disappear, with their spouses, parents, and children never knowing they were given a secret trial and executed. How many such cases are there, right this minute, of workers held in secret waiting for execution? No one knows.

    The responsibility for this situation certainly lies with the wealthy Saudi classes and the Saudi state administration – these feudal reactionaries who bring such pressure on hundreds of thousands of workers to keep the oil royalties flowing like water. But while oil makes the Saudi bourgeoisie rich, it makes the American, French and British oil company shareholders even richer.

    Behind the barbarous Saudis – and above them – stand the imperialist barbarians who are content to go along with this situation and who depend on this dictatorship to maintain order for them.

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    Doctors remove nails allegedly hammered into maid by employers

    By Iqbal Athas - August 27, 2010

    An X-ray shows nails hammered into the body of a Sri Lankan maid.

    Colombo, Sri Lanka (CNN) -- Doctors at a Sri Lankan hospital operated for three hours Friday to remove 18 nails and metal particles allegedly hammered into the arms, legs and forehead of a maid by her Saudi employer.

    Dr. Kamal Weeratunga said the surgical team in the southern town of Kamburupitiya pulled nails ranging from about one to three inches from Lahadapurage Daneris Ariyawathie's body. He said doctors have not yet removed four small metal particles embedded in her muscles.

    "She is under heavy antibiotics but in a stable condition," Weeratunga said.

    Sri Lankan officials, meanwhile, met with Saudi diplomats in Colombo to urge an investigation into the incident.

    "It was cruel treatment which should be roundly condemned," said L.K. Ruhunuge of the Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment.

    He said the Sri Lanka government has forwarded to Saudi authorities a detailed report on the incident including statements from Ariyawathie.

    Ariyawathie left Sri Lanka on March 25 to work as a housemaid in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia after the bureau registered her as a person obtaining a job from an officially recognized job agency.

    She was held down by her employer's wife while the employer hammered the heated nails, Ruhunuge told CNN. She apparently had complained to the couple that she was being overworked, Ruhunuge said.

    The nails were hammered into her arms and legs while one was on her forehead, he said.

    "Most of the wounds are superficial but five to 10 are somewhat deep," said Dr. Prabath Gajadeera of the Base Hospital. "Luckily, none of the organs is affected. Only nerves and blood vessels are affected."

    Ariyawathie, 49, is a mother of two children who were opposed to their mother's journey to Saudi Arabia for work.

    Several countries across the Middle East and Asia host significant numbers of migrant domestic workers, ranging from 196,000 in Singapore to about 1.5 million in Saudi Arabia, according to a report published earlier this year by Human Rights Watch.

    Many of the domestic workers are poor Asian women from Sri Lanka, Indonesia, India, Bangladesh, the Philippines and Nepal. Widespread abuse has been documented by global human rights groups.

    Common complaints include unpaid wages, long working hours with no time for rest, and heavy debt burdens from exorbitant recruitment fees, said the Human Rights Watch report.

    Isolation and forced confinement contribute to psychological and physical abuse, sexual violence, forced labor, and trafficking, the report said. The abuse often goes unchecked because of a lack of government regulation and protective laws.

    Ruhunuge said the registration of the local job agency that placed Ariyawathie has been cancelled.

    "We have also asked [them] to pay compensation to the victim," he added. "We want to bring those responsible for justice. We are doing our best in this regard," he said.

    He said his office was ready to accompany Ariyawathie to Saudi Arabia to testify if a case is brought against her former employers.

    Ariyawathie's dream was to one day return to Sri Lanka and build a house with the money she saved.

    "We are looking at the possibility of helping her to do this," Ruhunuge said.

    Karu Jayasuriya, deputy leader of the main opposition United National Party, visited Ariyawathie in the hospital and said he was appalled.

    "We want the government to raise this issue at the highest levels with the Saudi government. We cannot imagine that such crude and uncivilized things are happening to our workers," he said.

    Saudi officials were not immediately available for comment.



    “Pay the worker his wage before his sweat dries”

    By Will

    A Sri Lankan maid whose Saudi employer allegedly hammered 23 nails into her arms, legs and forehead is set to undergo surgery Friday, while government officials meet with Saudi diplomats in Colombo over the incident.

    L.P. Ariyawathie, a housemaid who worked in a household in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, was held down by her employer’s wife while the employer hammered the heated nails, said L.K. Ruhunuge of the Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment.

    Images of surgery - http://www.imagecross.com/11/image-h...id=917maid.jpg

    The degradation of guest workers, of foreigners, is just one of the many retrograde trends in the Gulf. Though worker abuse and violence against lower classes and castes is not limited to the Gulf, the mistreatment of housemaids and others is too frequent in Saudi and other Arab households. That hardly makes more acceptable such egregious cases. And it is not clear that the corrupt and authoritarian regimes there have any interest in doing anything about this.

    There is a culture of impunity around guest and migrant workers. Note that in this especially blood-curling case, the wife held her down as he hammered away into her. That a conspiracy among partners was involved makes this more horrifying; a single perpetrator acting alone is possibly an anomaly. That is, of course, unless the husband threatened the wife as well, thereby forcing her collusion.

    Embedding nails in another human being was their ghastly punishment for the crime of her complaining about being overworked, which she likely was. Other less-overtly violent forms of abuse happen publicly. As much as this is an embarrassment for Gulf countries, their feeble counter-efforts have done little to stem the tide. Nimr wrote about the lax laws and cheesy public awareness campaigns that do not hold much promise.

    Some countries, Kuwait for example, passed legislation improving worker conditions, setting hours, requiring health care and even allowing courts to sentence abusers with jail time. Whether they do is another question entirely. These are moves in the right direction, but appear inadequate.

    As the UN pointed out, the fundamental problem is the sponsorship system, which binds guest workers to citizens, giving the employers all the leverage. This makes them something like indentured servants; functionally, they are shades away from being the chattel of a slavery system (which we do see in modern human trafficking, a global problem).

    Even if the laws change, the problems are also partially socio-cultural. In part, such treatment exhibits a latent racism. It is reserved for guest workers of darker complexions, from countries such as Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and the Philippines. Perhaps short of racism — and I stress “perhaps” — is the sentiment that housemaids do not deserve much more than the bare minimum in terms of food and payment, and humiliation is often part of the job. Sarakenos observed this in Amman. This strikes me as giving way to the types of violence we see in this gruesome case of L.P. Ariyawathie.

    Arabs need to turn even insulting household help, drivers and maids, into a taboo. Those who humiliate or demean the people who dedicate their lives to helping them for little pay, and only to provide for their families, should be ostracized and made into social outcasts. It is a pathetic practice that goes against human decency, let alone some of the best wisdom and behavior of the prophet:

    ·Feed the hungry and visit a sick person, and free the captive, if he be unjustly confined. Assist any person oppressed, whether Muslim or non-Muslim.”

    ·Pay the worker his wage before his sweat dries.”

    ·Have compassion on yourself and on others and Infinite Compassion will be given to you.”


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    Two steps forward, three steps back

    By Nimr

    As I wrote about recently, there have been some positive, albeit tentative, movement in regards to the rights of migrant workers in Gulf State. I was even more encouraged when i found an article about a public awareness campaign in Saudi asking them to “be nice to your maid“. However, as I read further in the article I found this little gem:

    Riyadh police teamed up with the Sri Lankan embassy in September to rescue a Sri Lankan maid who had telephoned the Arab News newspaper to say she had been imprisoned, abused and unpaid by her woman employer for at least seven years.

    Charge d’affaires at the Sri Lankan embassy W.S.M.S. Wijesundera told AFP the housemaid had reached a settlement with her employers under which they will pay more than 5,000 dollars and buy her a ticket home.

    Now, the story does not go into the details about the veracity of the Sri Lankan national’s claims, but if they were even in the ballpark, a mere $5k for seven years of abuse and forced labor! Zero jail time! I don’t care if that is a lot of money in her country, that is just wrong. I want to see the upside that the Arab News and the Riyadh police took action (they often don’t), but really? $5k and a ticket?

    Wort of all the Saudi government has the temerity to downplay the situation and accuse Human Rights Watch of “exaggerating”. With “penalties” like that, no wonder those Saudis with no morals are not exactly worried about the repercussions of their inhumane actions. In self defense, some domestic workers have resorted to witchcraft to make their employers like them (Translation: The husband got caught sleeping with the maid and this is the best explanation he could come up with).

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    House team probes Saudi torture claims

    March 30, 2010

    Parliament’s Committee on Defence and Foreign Relations is investigating claims of cruel labour practices against Kenyans working in Saudi Arabia.

    Addressing a news conference at Parliament’s Continental House, Committee chairman Aden Keynan saidreports of rape and killings of Kenyan workers in the Gulf state had reached alarming levels.

    This, he added, had prompted Parliament to act, with a view to unearthing the broken link in the international labour market that exposed Kenyans to forced labour.

    In recent weeks, there have been cases of Kenyans killed, raped or maimed by their employers.

    Saboti MP Eugene Wamalwa (PNU) said Kenyans working abroad were a very important component to the country’s economy and their plight had to be addressed promptly.

    The House team has therefore appealed to Kenyans who have been through any nasty experiences in Saudi Arabia to appear before it and share their experience.

    “As Parliament, we want to know what’s happening and advise the government on the best way to put a stop to these cases,” said Mr Keynan.

    Similarly, Attorney General Amos Wako, who had just appeared before the committee said that the issue was of “great concern” to the government.

    However, he said, the ministry of Labour was in a better position to protect Kenyans from being exploited in other nations.

    Mr Wako said even though Kenyans were preferred employees in the Middle East labour market “because they are hardworking”, there was need for rules to govern recruitment.

    There is a huge problem (of exploitation) at the domestic servant level,” said the AG, adding that Kenyans in higher cadre jobs were relatively safe.


    Just another example of slave labor and abuse in the spoiled, corrupt arab world. If it’s not your arab raping and abusing a maid then its some arab employer raping, killing or not paying a worker. If all these workers stop going there and go elsewhere to work, let’s see how long these arrogant arabs last, not knowing how to do anything themselves and being too lazy to learn.

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    Employers ‘wrongfully’ castigate guest workers

    By SIRAJ WAHAB - May 9, 2010

    ALKHOBAR: Some expatriates, especially from South and Southeast Asian countries, have complained to the National Society for Human Rights (NSHR) about their being declared huroob (absconders), by unscrupulous sponsors eager to settle a score or obstruct a lawsuit.

    A classic case in point is that of 45-year-old Shahul Hameed from India who has been working with an Alkhobar-based trading company for 18 years. Three years ago he decided to leave the company for good. He submitted papers expressing his intention to leave and requested the company to provide him with his end-of-service benefits. The company managers refused to respond, prompting Hameed to approach the Labor Court in Dammam. A year-and-a-half later, the court ruled in his favor and directed the company to pay his dues totaling a little less than SR23,000.

    The company, using its legal right, approached the higher court in Riyadh. Fourteen months later, the Riyadh court also ruled in Hameed’s favor. Ideally, things should have ended there, and Hameed should have gone on a final exit to his country. It didn’t happen that way. He is currently living in the Dammam Deportation Center.

    When the case was being heard in Riyadh, Hameed's employers approached the Deportation Center in Dammam and declared him an absconder. Once an expatriate is declared an absconder he cannot go back to his home country through the regular procedure. He has to be arrested and then sent home through the Deportation Center. Not only that: He is blacklisted and cannot come back to any Gulf country for future employment.

    Hameed has sought the intervention of the Saudi human rights body and contested his company’s declaring him an absconder at a time when he was engaged in a legal battle with it. His case is pending resolution, and there is little evidence to indicate it will soon be resolved.

    Hameed’s case has thrown light on the rampant abuse of the “huroob” clause of the labor/immigration law. Government rules allow sponsors to declare employees who have not shown up for work as absconders. Employers have to approach a particular department at the Deportation Center. It is called the Idaarat-ul-Waafideen. This department only deals with cases of absconders. It is at this department that employers have to submit all details about the allegedly absconding employee. His iqama number and passport details are registered in the system, and he is then officially an absconder.

    Once an employee is classed as an absconder, his sponsor is absolved of any possible criminal or illegal activity that the expatriate may commit. For example, if a foreign national is arrested for illegal activity, it is his sponsor who has to suffer the consequences. The law is basically designed to protect the rights of the sponsor. It is well-intentioned; however, it is increasingly misused to punish a “demanding” employee as was the case with Hameed.

    Arab News inquiries have revealed that in many cases, expatriates have been declared absconders just so that the Saudi employers can get new visas issued in their place. In one well-documented case in Riyadh, a Saudi employer applied for a house driver’s visa. He got it. He hired a driver from Sri Lanka. After the driver got his iqama and work permit for two years, his sponsor went to the Deportation Center and declared him an absconder. The Sri Lankan man was very much in his employment and was in fact taking the man's children to school on a daily basis.

    When the house driver was declared an absconder, the Deportation Center issued the relevant papers indicating the same. The Saudi then approached another government ministry and applied for a new visa for a house driver. He immediately got it. He sold this visa to one of the employment agencies and made money out of it.

    Meanwhile, the Sri Lankan man continued to work as the house driver, unaware of the fact that he had been an illegal resident and a runaway in the eyes of the Passport Department. He realized what had happened to him at the time of his iqama renewal. His sponsor then took him to the Deportation Center and told the authorities that his employee had returned and that he wanted the label of absconder against him removed. The deportation center followed the rules and the Sri Lankan house driver was again taken off the list and his iqama was renewed for another two years.

    The Sri Lankan man’s case was in the past. The government authorities realized that the procedure was being misused. They have now made it extremely difficult for anybody to take a name off the “huroob” list. This has, however, made things even more difficult for foreign workers. If they are declared an absconder, for whatever reason, genuine or otherwise, and even if they appear in person at the employer’s place, they cannot be taken off the list and have to go back home through the Deportation Center in distress and ignominy.

    Rights activists familiar with such cases have described the “huroob” clause as “sharp weapon” in the hands of unscrupulous employers who can declare their employees runaways if they feel that the worker is trying to approach the labor office to settle a dispute with them.

    Earlier this year, Navanethem Pillay, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, called for an end to the sponsorship system in Gulf countries, saying it exposed workers to abuses. “Reports concerning this region consistently cite ongoing practices of unlawful confiscation of passports, withholding of wages and exploitation by some recruitment agencies and employers,” Pillay said.

  19. #19
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    Saudi woman gets three years jail for abusing her housemaid

    The brutal treatment of Sumiati has caused shock in both Saudi Arabia and Indonesia

    By momoorana - Jan 10, 2011

    Dubai: According to a Saudi newspaper, Okaz, a court in Madinah sentenced a Saudi woman to three years in prison for abusing her Indonesian housemaid.

    The case of Sumiati Mustafa, 23, received worldwide attention after she was admitted to hospital last year with broken bones and burns to her face and body. The Saudi woman is accused of stabbing, beating and burning her with an iron.

    The Saudi women still insisted during her trial that she was not guilty and had nothing to do with the wounds inflicted on her housemaid.

    The defendant was indicted under the newly anti-human trafficking law, which is a public right. The private right demanded by the housemaid’s lawyer will be determined at a later hearing, but the Indonesian consulate lawyer, Abdul RahmanAbdul Rahman Al Muhammadi said to Al Watan newspaper that he will appeal the ruling, pressing for a tougher punishment.

    Mustafa was present at the hearing, along with the Saudi woman, the Indonesian consul, the prosecution representative, the two defense lawyers, and an Indonesian housemaid – who had worked for the woman’s daughter and is a witness to Mustafa’s abuse – in addition to three Indonesian translators.


    Where's the Shariah?!!! Following Shariah would mean this Arab woman be inflicted with the same treatment that she inflicted on the maid. When an Egyptian prince whipped a Christian Copt for winning in a race then Umar (radhiallahu anhu) had the Christian Copt whip the Egyptian prince and his father as a punishment.

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    Saudi gets 5 years’ probation for housemaid abuse

    By Saleh Aal Haydar -16 September 2009

    OHIO – A Saudi man has been given five years’ probation, a part of which requires the payment of $143,000, for abusing the contract terms of an Indonesian woman he hired as a housemaid.

    The sentence, passed two weeks ago, followed the arrest of the unnamed Saudi in July over his employment of an Indonesian woman in 2002 in the Texan capital of Houston.

    The Saudi was reportedly in the US with his wife so that she could receive medical treatment, and signed a contract with the Indonesian lady stipulating a monthly salary of $1,300 for a six-day week of eight hours per day, in accordance with US labor law.

    The maid was with the Saudi man for six years before lodging a complaint accusing him of failing to pay the terms of the contract, as well as confiscating her passport and demanding she work beyond the contracted hours. When she contacted her consulate she was directed to US legal authorities and the attorney general ordered that the Saudi be detained.

    The court ruled that the Saudi be given five years’ probation, with a part of the conditions that he pay the plaintiff $143,000 in salary owed, after hearing that the maid was forced to work 14 hours a day seven days a week. During the entire six years she was in the Saudi’s employment she received no more than $11,000 for her work.

    “The accused is also involved in another case of violating US immigration law,” Abdul Rahman Al-Shaye’, the Saudi Consul General in Houston, Ohio, told Okaz newspaper. “He stayed in the country longer than his visa permitted even though the period of his wife’s medical treatment had ended.”

    Al-Shaye’ added that a second lawyer had been assigned to seek the Saudi’s deportation back to the Kingdom.


    They abuse the workers even when not in their Saudi ruled country. Unlike Saudi, here people have rights and they can actually get justice from these abusers. What would have been fitting is if they had also given this arab jail time for human trafficking!


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