Tanzanian domestic workers in the Gulf face abuse

Human Rights Watch Pressebild Tansania

Tanzanian domestic workers in the Gulf face abuse

Bruised and battered both mentally and physically, she was desperate to leave and went to the Tanzanian embassy for help.

Unable to flee, she continued to work 21 to 23 hours a day, and was banned from leaving the house, unless it involved taking out the rubbish. I told this to the agent (in Oman) and said, 'I want to go back home.' She said, 'You can not go anywhere; your boss has your passport.

"I just said I want to go back home".

Frustrated with the situation, Basma gave up three months of her salary and paid for her own flights back home using the money she had borrowed from a Tanzanian embassy official.

She was still paying off her loan a year after returning home in February 2016.

"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.

Human Rights Watch Pressebild Tansania

Of the 87 women interviewed by the organisation, nineteen workers said they were abused by their employers, who would pinch their cheeks, pull their ears, and beat them with sticks and mops.

The majority of domestic workers in Gulf countries come from Asia, including from the Philippines, India and Sri Lanka.

Thousands of Tanzanian women working in Gulf countries are exploited and tortured by their employers, a report has claimed.

But visa-sponsorship rules in Oman and the United Arab Emirates, known as the kafala system, mean they cannot change jobs without their employer's consent and can be charged with "absconding" if they flee, Human Rights Watch said.

Nearly all of the interviewees said their employers had confiscated their passports, and 22 said they also confined them to the house or the compound. "Women talked about being groped, with one woman being anally raped", Begum told MEE.

Tanzanian domestic workers in the Gulf are beaten, sexually assaulted and deprived of pay, rights campaigners said on Tuesday as they called for an end to abusive employment rules.

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Begum, though, said they were in the country on a business visa.

While Tanzania has expanded some protections for overseas migrant domestic workers since 2011, gaps in Tanzania's recruitment and migration policies place workers at heightened risk from the outset and provide little opportunity for redress.

Begum also told MEE that the abuse faced by most of the Tanzanian workers took on a racial dimension as their employers treated them differently and at times described them as "dogs".

"Some of the workers being insulted and shouted at".

"Some workers described the level of racial discrimination [of their employers] because they wouldn't touch the same plate as them or eat the same food". Many worked long hours, up to 21 hours a day without rest or a day off.

The authorities require women to migrate through a recruitment agency but have not set out minimum standards for how agencies assist workers in cases of abuse, or for inspections and penalties in case of violations.

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Most women said they were humiliated daily and were paid less that what had been promised to them.

Oman and the UAE exclude domestic workers from their labor laws. Oman's 2004 domestic worker regulations are weak, with no penalties for employer breaches, and it is the last country in the Gulf region not to provide labor rights in law.

In September 2017, the UAE issued a law providing domestic workers with labour rights for the first time, but the new law offered lesser protections than for workers under the general labour law.

The Kafala system remains the largest impediment to domestic worker's rights in Oman and the UAE, and should be ended, Human Rights Watch said.

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