Eight Ethiopian Maids Poisoned in the UAE
Eight Ethiopian domestic workers are believed to have been murdered by poisoning in the United Arab Emirates.
Sources at the Ethiopian embassy in the UAE told the Gulf News that eight female maids had been poisoned by a compatriot maid last Wednesday in an apartment in Sharjah, the largest city in the third largest emirate of the country.
The woman accused of killing the eight domestic workers is said to be held in the emirate’s central jail, but Sharjah police have publicly denied reports of the multiple murders, calling them “just rumors.”
The embassy sources said the police had reported the incident to them, but were still investigating the motive behind the killings.
The sources claimed the bodies of the eight murdered women had been transferred to the morgues at two local hospitals. Officials at both hospitals reported that no bodies had been brought to the morgue, but that it was possible the bodies had been sent for forensic examinations.
The women are understood to have been living together in an apartment in the Abu Shagara neighborhood of the city.
The UAE has received extensive criticism over the years from human rights and labor organizations over the conditions for foreign workers in the country.
Domestic workers, which make up a significant proportion of the UAE’s predominately foreign population, have complained of sub-standard housing, lack of medical care, abuse and non-payment of wages.
The average Emirati household had 10 members in 2008, including domestic workers and drivers. The average monthly wage last year for such a household was the equivalent of about U.S. $12,800.
The government announced new regulations two years ago requiring holiday, medical care and registered salaries for all foreign domestic workers in the country. A conflict resolution unit was also set up to resolve disputes between employees and workers.
“This is a category of workers that are extremely vulnerable because there are no labor laws that apply to them,” Ibrahim Awad, Director of the International Migration Program at the International Labor Organization, told The Media Line. “In most countries migrant domestic workers are not covered by domestic labor laws because their workplace is a household. This presents a very big challenge.”
“International instruments of human rights apply to domestic workers and there are regulations in the UAE that ensure that domestic workers are paid their wages,” Awad continued. “By law, passports and documents cannot be withheld from migrant workers, for example, but the degree of enforcement varies. This presents a particular problem for domestic workers because labor inspectors cannot get access to their workplaces as they work in private homes.”
The International Labor Organization plans to push international standards or labor recommendations for domestic laborers in their annual conference next year.
The United States recently placed the country on a watch list of countries with poor human trafficking records.
Ethiopian women are regularly trafficked via Djibouti, Egypt and Somalia for domestic servitude, particularly to the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Lebanon.
The Ethiopian government banned its citizens from traveling to Lebanon in May last year following the deaths of a number of Ethiopian domestic workers in the country. The ban remains in effect.