Human rights group slam treatment of Tanzanian domestic workers in UAE and Oman

Human rights group slam treatment of Tanzanian domestic workers in UAE and Oman
Human Rights Watch have described the horrific treatment of Tanzanian domestic workers in the Gulf states the UAE and Oman, detailing incidences of 'beatings, exploitation, harassment'.
3 min read
15 November, 2017
Domestic workers in the Gulf are often exploited by their employers' [file photo-AFP]



Regular beatings, sexual assaults, excessive working hours and unpaid salaries are just some of the horrific experiences of Tanzanian home helpers working in the UAE and Oman.

The 100-page report "Working Like a Robot", released by Human Rights Watch on Tuesday, details a long list of commonplace abuses by employers in Oman and the UAE against Tanzanian domestic workers.  

It also highlights how the Gulf states' notorious "kafala" visa system leaves the East African women vulnerable to attacks and contributes to exploitation in their workplace.

"Many Tanzanian domestic workers in Oman and the UAE are overworked, underpaid, and abused behind closed doors," said Rothna Begum, Middle East women's rights researcher at Human Rights Watch. 

"Workers who fled abusive employers or agents told us the police or their own embassy officials forced them to go back, or they had to relinquish their salaries and spend months raising money for tickets home."

The report contains interviews from 50 domestic workers - all women - from the East African country, along with Tanzanian officials, trade unionists and recruiters.

The human rights workers discovered that Tanzanian women were often employed because they lack the protections and minimum salary workers that the more numerous home helpers from the Philippines, Indonesia, India and Sri Lanka benefit from.

They found that almost every employer confiscated the women's passports when they entered the home and would work for as many as 21 hours a day without any rest periods.

Some were never paid for their work, having to survive on leftover or spoiled food. Many experienced daily abuse from their employers, including beatings and rape. 

"They had little recourse for leaving abusive working conditions," Human Rights Watch said on their website.

One woman interviewed said she was regularly physically abused and worked 21-hour days. After fleeing the home when the son of her employer repeatedly tried to rape her, she faced arrest for absconding and "owed recruitment costs". 

She was forced to borrow the money to return home to Tanzania and had to forfeit three months' salary.

Oman is the last country in the Gulf not to offer labour rights to domestic workers and 2004 regulations offer no punishments to employers' who breach the code.

Law enforcement authorities in Oman sometimes aid employers who try to pursue absconded domestic workers for recruitment costs and other charges.

Tanzania's contracts for domestic workers in Oman and the UAE are regularly ignored by employers, and carry no legal standing in the Gulf states.

Human Rights Watch want the Tanzanian government to adopt rights-based training programmes for workers, more stringent regulations to cover recruitment, and regular consular assistance to citizens in Oman and the UAE to tackle to problem.

"Tanzania should ensure that women can migrate safely for domestic work," Begum said. 

"Tanzania, Oman, and the UAE should work together to prevent exploitation of migrant domestic workers, investigate abuses, and prosecute those responsible."