On Friday, Kenya became another country in a long list to ban their citizens from arranging domestic work in the Middle East. Maids working in countries like Saudi Arabia, usually coming from Africa, the Sub-Continent and South-East Asia, have continuously been the targets of abhorrent mistreatment: from sexual abuse to intense mental abuse and even murder.
Earlier this year, the Philippines said they would not lift the ban on their maids getting work in Jordan until the country addressed cases of abuse and purged the recruitment process of ‘undesirables’. Lebanon has a name from itself too, a few months ago even the UN urged the country to look into a case where an Ethiopian maid, who later killed herself, was filmed being beaten in the street outside the Ethiopian consulate; it’s also only a year since the Madagascan government chartered a plane to help 86 Madagascan maids escape Lebanon, some of whom had been working as ‘Slave Maids’ for as long as 15 years.
…are seen less as people than simply labour…
These are not isolated incidents, they are becoming so numerous that they can now be seen as cold statistics for the systematic and unheeded racism and elitism that is rife across the Middle East. It seems that people from the areas are seen less as people and simply labour.
Over the last few years the UAE, and Dubai especially, have come under increasing pressure to protect construction workers: men, usually from the Sub-Continent, who, like the maids, had been recruited in their home countries by promises of good salaries and good treatment, who had arrived in the country to immediately have their passports and documents taken from them, be paid an amount barely enough to sustain themselves, let alone families back home, and to live in cramped inhuman conditions, sleeping in construction huts with upwards of 15 other men. One of the latest construction plans in the oil-rich country was for a new Guggenheim gallery to be built, though this has been put on hold, rumours say because of the treatment of workers.
…worry more about the human situations…
This is hopefully a sign for the future. The international community is often scared to condemn actions in the Gulf countries for fear of hurting economic interests, though maybe people might start to see that i’ts time to stop worrying about selfish interests and worry more about the human situations and costs that a lack of action can cause.