500 maids absconded from sponsors in Fujairah last year

200 less cases last year than 2014, but numbers ‘alarming’.

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FUJAIRAH // Domestic workers leaving their sponsors without notice last year dropped to 500 cases in the emirate, down from 700 in 2014.

With many leaving for better paying jobs or to escape abuse, Lt Mohammad Al Hindasi, head of the Fujairah police follow-up section for foreigners and illegals, said most of the women ended up working illegally by the hour in homes or restaurants.

Despite the drop in cases, he said the figure was still alarming

“Maids and household workers should be informed before signing any contract about their expected monthly salary, number of family members in the sponsor’s house, the required working hours – and they should be also aware of the country’s traditions and religion.”

Lt Al Hindasi said that some maids were convinced to leave their sponsor by women who had already absconded, business owners looking for cheap labour or criminal gangs promising higher salaries.

“They would also get in touch with other maids working illegally at homes who get paid by the hour and make more money. It’s the duty of the labour supply agency to ensure that they are fully aware of their working environment and the country’s law.”

He emphasised that maids were protected by law and should report any abuse to authorities instead of walking out.

“Maids working with families who live in rural areas may be mistreated because of the high numbers of family members and lack of knowledge and understanding. In most cases, it leads to some kind of abuse and they will choose to run away.”

By law, sponsors are required to inform authorities if a worker they employ absconds. Anyone who hires or shelters an illegal worker faces two months in prison or a Dh100,000 fine.

Abdullah Saeed, owner of Al Amwaj Labour Agency, said his firm made sure the maids it matched to employers were given full information about sponsors before an agreement was signed.

“We provide information such as the number of family members and if they have kids, old people or people with disabilities. But we can’t guarantee that they will stay and not run away. If the maid or the sponsor feels [uncomfortable] we provide alternatives,” said the Emirati.

“We don’t take responsibility if they run away, but we try to help by contacting their families back home. If any of them complain about being abused we directly contact the police. But the majority run away without complaining.”

On average, housemaids in Fujairah receive between Dh800 and Dh1,200 a month. Recruitment agency fees paid by a sponsor range from Dh5,500 to Dh14,500, depending on the maid’s nationality and experience.

M A, an Indian domestic worker, is employed full time at her sponsor’s home. She has two side jobs to earn extra money.

“I work and stay at my sponsor’s house. I clean either in the morning or evening depending on my availability because I also work four days a week at a restaurant covering the evening shift. I take house cleaning orders by the hour too,” said the 42-year-old. “My sponsor gave me permission because they don’t need me all the time. I can make more money that will help me support my family.”

Ahmad Al Marzoqi, a 34-year-old Emirati, said it was not unusual for maids or drivers to leave without warning.

“We had a driver and one night he was gone. We looked for him everywhere, but he disappeared. I contacted the police and filed a report in order not to be questioned or face any fines.

“I think they run away thinking that they will find better salaries and most of them don’t care if they are legal or illegal,” he said.

rhaza@thenational.ae