Employers of Ethiopian maids in UAE urged to inform embassy

Ethiopian mission officials are now trying to get a picture of how many Ethiopian nationals are still employed in the UAE after recruitment freeze last year.

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DUBAI// The Ethiopian mission has urged UAE residents who hired its nationals as domestic workers before a recruitment freeze last year to come forward.

The temporary ban was announced last July until a labour deal could be struck to protect maids and domestic helpers from abusive recruiters and sponsors. The UAE stopped issuing domestic worker visas upon Addis Ababa's request.

Officials are now trying to get a picture of how many Ethiopian nationals are still employed in the UAE.

"We expect the people who have hired Ethiopian maids before the ban to inform the diplomatic mission. It's very important they do that," said Mesganu Arga Moach, the Ethiopian consul general

Negotiations on a labour deal between the UAE and Ethiopia are in the "final stages", said Mr Moach. "The agreement is in the last stage of communication."

Last month Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, visited Addis Ababa to discuss bilateral ties between the two countries.

"The UAE is still working on it. Sheikh Abdullah has promised to finalise it soon. During our discussions it was the most important point raised by officials and the UAE has expressed its willingness to increase the number of Ethiopian workers in the UAE. Hopefully, it will be ready soon."

A UAE foreign ministry official, who requested not to be identified, said: "It will take time. The ministry is looking into it and still discussing some points."

During his two-day visit to Addis Ababa, Sheikh Abdullah signed two deals: one to establish a joint committee for cooperation in economic, political and social fields and a second to enable the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DCCI) to open a representative office in Ethiopia. The country also announced plans to open an embassy in Abu Dhabi.

In November last year, Mr Moach said the work ban could be lifted in three months. However, he said last week a time frame could not be set.

"It is difficult to say when it will be ready. We are trying to bring in a new agreement. There are interests to be communicated to both sides."

During Sheikh Abdullah's visit, Ethiopian prime minister Hailemariam Desalegn said his country was ready to send more workers to the Emirates provided the agreement was inked.

According to the Ethiopian foreign ministry's website, Mr Desalegn said: "We are happy to see Ethiopians working in UAE as long as their protection is guaranteed and there is a legal framework put in place to govern their employment relations there."

The push for protection by Addis Ababa is considered important in light of recent incidents involving Ethiopian domestic workers. A 23-year-old maid underwent skin graft surgery last month after her sponsor was accused of pouring hot cooking oil over her. The attack in February left the maid with first and second degree burns to her face, back and foot, according to police.

Mr Moach said his mission was following up on the maid's condition. "We are providing support to her. The UAE authorities are helping bring violators to court."

In another case reviewed by the Abu Dhabi court, an Emirati employer is being tried for the death of her Ethiopian maid. The employer's daughter testified in court that her mother had tortured the worker on a daily basis by pouring boiling water on her and whipping her with electrical wires.

Despite Ethiopia's keenness to ensure legal protection, Mr Moach said he was not optimistic it would prevent exploitation and torture.

"The agreement may never stop abuses, but it may put in mechanisms to bring violators to court."