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Friday, May 14, 2021

Al Raya: More domestic helpers in Qatar absconding during summertime

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Photo for illustrative purposes only.
Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Expressing discontent about “the rising phenomenon” of domestic workers who abscond from their sponsors during holiday trips abroad, some Qatar residents have urged their peers to avoid traveling with house help, Al Raya reports.

In an article published last week, the Arabic daily quoted a number of Qataris who discussed the growing problem of “runaway help” during the summer holiday season.

According to Al Raya, this is what usually happens: The sponsoring family typically issues visas for one or more of their female domestic helpers to go with them on vacation, usually to take care of children.

Once abroad, the help “escapes” – sometimes with the aid of a relative who already lives in that foreign country, or with someone, typically a man, she newly meets there.

The domestic worker may then reach out to her embassy and claim that she has been mistreated or abused, which can put Qatari citizens abroad in legal trouble.

Speaking to Al Raya, one resident said that he believed domestic workers used “the opportunity to travel to London or Paris to escape, looking for more freedom and a better paying job.”

Another person quoted in the piece said that “for an Asian maid who works in Qatar or any other GCC for eight hours a day and no more than QR1500,” escaping in London can mean finding a job that generates a higher income.

He added that the women may also find London attractive because “different nationalities and cultures coexist in the British society.”

Skepticism

While Qatar government officials have previously confirmed that the number of absconding domestic workers rises during Ramadan due to the increased workload, the summer holiday trend has been harder to support.

Photo for illustrative purposes only.
Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Human rights advocates who spoke to Doha News said that they were not aware of an uptick in domestic helpers leaving their sponsors during the summer.

Aakash Jayaprakash, who has worked on migration and human rights issues in Qatar for eight years, also expressed skepticism.

Though he acknowledged that he heard of such cases, Jayaprakash said he found it difficult to “speculate how frequent or commonly this occurs without any sound data or evidence.”

He added that context is important in this regard:

“If there has been a dramatic rise in the numbers of domestic workers in the country over the past five years, then it is only natural to see a correlating number of them seeking to leave their sponsors.”

Amnesty International researcher James Lynch said he also could not confirm any such trend. Instead, he expressed concerns about the language used by media in Qatar when reporting on workers.

Speaking to Doha News, he said:

“The very fact that women who leave employment relationships, whether in Europe or the Gulf, are described as “escaping” or “absconding” – language usually reserved for convicted criminals – is deeply troubling. People in other, less marginalized, professions are generally able to leave their employers without being stigmatized in this way.”

Prevention

For families concerned about losing their domestic help, the men all suggested taking steps to firstly improve employee wages and work conditions. Lynch said:

“If employers of domestic workers want to ensure that they retain the services of their employees, by far their best option is to pay them a decent wage – on time – and to respect their labor rights, including by not expecting them to work excessive hours, seven days a week.”

Jayaprakash also suggested that contracts between sponsors and their domestic helpers be improved, so that the employees can take annual vacations, perhaps going back to their home countries while the sponsor and his family are away on vacation.

He concluded that the best solution for everyone is if “relationships between the employer and employee were based on trust, rather than fear and suspicion.”

Thoughts?

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Jaded
Jaded
6 years ago

So they suggest improving their wages and working conditions to avoid this happening… now there’s a shocker

Raven
Raven
6 years ago

To all those worried Qatar residents quoted in the article, the solution is very simple – in fact it really only amounts to you having to do three small things. Firstly, treat your domestic employees like fellow human beings and with dignity rather than treating them like enslaved animals; secondly, pay them a decent and fair living wage rather than a meagre pittance; and thirdly, ensure that their human and civil rights are respected rather than completely ignored. Alternatively, and I realize that this might seem like a crazy idea, but you could always try doing your domestic work, shopping, car washing, and other menial chores for yourself – just like the vast majority of people in the rest of the world have to do!

Saeed Ahmad Khan
Saeed Ahmad Khan
6 years ago

Treat them well and stop complaining please.

Gareth Walters
Gareth Walters
6 years ago

Isn’t it funny how you don’t hear about domestic helpers running away from western families.

DavidRSS8
DavidRSS8
6 years ago
Reply to  Gareth Walters

That’s because domestic workers are racist.

sicti
sicti
6 years ago
Reply to  DavidRSS8

That’s a good one :))

Shabina921
Shabina921
6 years ago
Reply to  Gareth Walters

We’ve written before that domestic helpers in Qatar are abused by all races of families – it has to do with the power structure of the sponsor/employee relationship.

DavidRSS8
DavidRSS8
6 years ago
Reply to  Shabina921

Yes, because Westerners write into expat sites and their home country newspapers all the time to complain about escaping maids and strategies to prevent it.

I’m sure that there is a Western family out there that has abused their maid, but they would largely be shamed by their compatriots for it, and it is, comparatively, more rare. Hence all of these maids escaping when they get to Western countries. There is a cultural element of permissiveness to this, too.

Saleem
Saleem
6 years ago
Reply to  Gareth Walters

Well if you’ve studied Western history you would have heard quite a great deal about it, in fact several movies have been produced on them, although they were known as “runaway slaves” back then.

As for societal attitudes in this region, they merely reflect the medieval laws of the region, so it isn’t “funny” as much as it is expected.

outdoorsboys
outdoorsboys
6 years ago
Reply to  Saleem

The word ‘slaves’ is the clue Saleem. Domestic workers are employees, not slaves

Saleem
Saleem
6 years ago
Reply to  outdoorsboys

Sure, because being labeled an “employee” as opposed to a “slave” ensures great working conditions and humane treatment. Perhaps Western companies with sweatshops in the undeveloped world should teach the east the difference between slaves and hiring “employees”.

outdoorsboys
outdoorsboys
6 years ago
Reply to  Saleem

Employees may well not have great working conditions but they can resign if they wish. We are all ‘wage slaves’, those of us who require a wage to feed clothe and shelter our families, but we are not held as property and can walk out of the door any time we decide. Slaves, or to coin a local phrase ‘ Domestic workers’, cannot, and if they do leave without permission, they are classed as absconding. There is a world of difference Saleem, do you not see that?

The Reporter
The Reporter
6 years ago

Never has the divergence between cultures been so clearly demonstrated as we read this article. Slaves “abscond ” and “escape”, employees “leave”, and such are their working conditions that they feel no obligation to go through an honest resignation. Again it just shows Qatar in such a bad light.

Michael Fryer
Michael Fryer
6 years ago

When I see that photo of a desperately unhappy maid, surrounded by three small children, with parents off in the distance, I can’t help but wonder what it is doing to this young generation. It cannot be healthy for these kids to be growing up around non-existent parents and being ‘cared’ for by apathetic nannies. It must be damaging the mental health of the kids.

Rebecca Wyatt
Rebecca Wyatt
6 years ago

I think it says something about the relationship between the family and the worker. Instead of being honest and open, the worker somehow feels they have to escape. Much more needs to be done to make sure workers are treated fairly and paid for the work they do. Kindness goes a long way.

Ivan Brendieswski
Ivan Brendieswski
6 years ago
Reply to  Rebecca Wyatt

Escape? Don’t you mean “quit”, that’s all it is after all, an employee quitting.

Rebecca Wyatt
Rebecca Wyatt
6 years ago

In most places, “quit” would be the operative term. In this case, I don’t think these workers are allowed to “quit.”

Ivan Brendieswski
Ivan Brendieswski
6 years ago
Reply to  Rebecca Wyatt

Then the employers using the term “escape” are tacitly admitting that they are withholding the freedom of their employees. How silly of them.

Saleem
Saleem
6 years ago

The article states that their employers sponsor their visas to visit foreign countries, hence irrespective of the circumstances surrounding why they had decided to leave their employer, the fact remains that they are violating conditions of the visas issued to them and they would be evading the authorities of the host country if they wish to remain there. This would be more like “escaping” than “quitting”, as the latter would require them to inform their employer of their decision to leave back when they were in Qatar.

AEC
AEC
6 years ago
Reply to  Saleem

Wrong – see my earlier comment.

Ivan Brendieswski
Ivan Brendieswski
6 years ago
Reply to  Saleem

It is more complex than what you have characterized. Let us use the UK as an example;as soon as the sponsor enters the UK and the maid doesn’t have her identification,
the sponsor is subject to prosecution for human trafficking. The maid can then reasonably and rightfully say that she is fear for her safety at the hands of the criminals employing her, and her visa will be transferred while her case is processed.

This is not absconding; this is fleeing abusive and criminal treatment, by sponsors who are not following the law of the land and whose behaviour makes them subject to prosecution.

The visa controls what the worker may do while in the country and how long she may stay – it doesn’t tie her to the sponsor in any way. If the maid wishes to leave her sponsor she has violated no laws unless she doesn’t leave the country within the time limit, take steps to change her visa status, or works in a field outside of what is allowed by her visa.

Saying to her sponsors, “Our employment relationship has finished, good-bye”, is not a violation of visa terms unless one of the above conditions is met. It is not the sponsor’s place to make that determination, it is the job for the authorities. Escaping is not a term that exists when talking about visas, so it is not a term that we should use.

greg
greg
6 years ago

maybe to use a tracking device to find the escapees?

Myrddin
Myrddin
6 years ago
Reply to  greg

Better still, an exploding necklace, activated when slave strays more than 100m from ‘Madam’s’ GPS phone.

greg
greg
6 years ago
Reply to  Myrddin

It’s Mam! not Madam!
*Really sorry for the black humour, do not want to offence any ethnicity or social class

Expat Girl
Expat Girl
6 years ago
Reply to  greg

I’m offended by your usage of the word “black”, EXPLAIN YOURSELF!! jk 🙂

greg
greg
6 years ago
Reply to  Expat Girl

* African-American humour…

Yacine
Yacine
6 years ago

Hopefully this will teach Qataris to take care of themselves by themselves and change this ugly habit of paying people to serve you because you are lazy not because you need it.

Saleem
Saleem
6 years ago
Reply to  Yacine

That’s quite a ridiculous and ignorant statement, the use of domestic workers is not something exclusive to Qatar and there is nothing wrong with hiring them if you can afford it. Provided the workers are treated fairly, respectfully, and their rights are protected, it really is none of your business whether a person is recruiting them “because they need it” or because they want to watch TV all day.

Yacine
Yacine
6 years ago
Reply to  Saleem

We all lived in big families and our moms and sisters do the housework when needed. My sister has a PHD and she was always there to help mom. Cleaning and cooking for 6 people did not prevent her from studying and now working. But in Qatar, you would find a family of 6 with 2 or 3 people serving them: the driver and one or two maids.

I even have a Qatari colleague who lives with her two sisters and parents, and they use 4 people to serve them: one driver, two maids (and one specifically for my colleague), and a cook.

If this is not laziness then I am not sure what elese we can call it.

As for the whole thing not being my business, of course it is not and you do not have to remind me. But I do not have to remind you that I am free to comment on whatever I want and this is called freedom of speech.

Saleem
Saleem
6 years ago
Reply to  Yacine

Again you are imposing your standards on others. People are entitled to live as they please as long as they aren’t bothering anyone. Using your logic then someone who has attended a higher ranked university than you should be entitled to consider you not properly educated, someone who runs for miles everyday and only eats healthy is entitled to consider your lazy and careless about your health, someone who speaks more languages than you can consider you to be uncultured, and so on and so forth.

Indeed you have the right to comment just as people have a right to hold views similar to the examples I provided above, it is no secret that freedom of speech does not prohibit narrow-minded or ridiculous statements.

outdoorsboys
outdoorsboys
6 years ago
Reply to  Yacine

Lucky you with your extended family who share the household duties and care for each others offspring. I had none of the above, still don’t here, and pay for others to do the things I cannot do as I work at other paid employment. The world is not one dimensional.

Yacine
Yacine
6 years ago
Reply to  outdoorsboys

Qatari families are big and the average size of each household is somewhere between 6 or 7. I understand that it is not always easy to manage a family but hiring maids should be an exception. Unfortunately in this country it is the norm to have maids and drivers serving you. Many housewives and girls are busy all day shopping and going to the hairdresser and beauty saloons, which means that they have no genuine need for a full-time live-in maid if they organize the daily tasks between them.

It is a culture of laziness that stems from the fact that Qataris can easily afford having people serving them. There is no other explanation to it I am afraid.

Michael Fryer
Michael Fryer
6 years ago
Reply to  Yacine

The problem Yacine is that in a lot cases there families DON’T pay the people to serve them; employers think nothing of forgetting to pay their maid for a few months because maids aren’t covered under the Labor Law and really can’t complain effectively to a legal body.

Saleem
Saleem
6 years ago
Reply to  Michael Fryer

That’s incorrect. Only three years ago my uncle was called in by the authorities as he was in the process of deporting his maid who was caught stealing and she wanted to delay this happening by accusing him of not paying her, fortunately for him he had documentation to prove otherwise. I know several other incidents of sponsors being called to account for similar accusations, and I shared my uncle’s experience as an example as he is a very senior government official but this still did not prevent the authorities from calling him in (as most on here would presume it would).

The real issue is a lot of workers are unaware of whom they should contact when their rights are infringed upon, and their embassies as well as recruiting agencies should play a greater role in this regard.

Yacine
Yacine
6 years ago
Reply to  Michael Fryer

True. But I think mistreatment of maids is not specifically a Qatari thing. I have heard many stories of Arab and Indian families mistreating their maids. Unfrotunately it is related to one’s education and respect towards others rather than nationality.

johnny wang
johnny wang
6 years ago

It would be interesting to note that what one considers as runaway and absconding workers in one place are actually considered as “enslaved, held against their will and human trafficking” in other countries like in Europe and the USA

Chillaxxx
Chillaxxx
6 years ago

Next Al Raya article:

The ministry has released a statement notifying the public of new microchips which can be implanted right around a domestic worker’s collarbone. The procedure to implant the chip is relatively simple and cheap, allowing families to monitor their maid’s every move, and track them should they run away without a leash. The chips will be introduced in two phases, with the aim of chipping 100% of maids belonging to nationals by 2015, and to expatriates by 2017. This technology is still in its early stages meaning that only workers from India, Philippines, Sri Lanka and Nepal may be chipped.

greg
greg
6 years ago
Reply to  Chillaxxx

almost believed you

Myrddin
Myrddin
6 years ago
Reply to  Chillaxxx

Just read your post after my own post about exploding necklace. Whereas your solution has merit I see a flaw? Said servant would still be at liberty in foreign country, whereabouts known, but still able to avail themselves of legal assistance.

Which slave would be daft enough to even try to ‘escape’ if they knew escape meant, well… bang.. bye bye head?

Amber
Amber
6 years ago

Well if you don’t want your maid “running away” then pay her a decent salary and start treating her as an employee instead of a slave.

These are the people raising your kids. You should treat them more like family.

Expat Girl
Expat Girl
6 years ago
Reply to  Amber

Well said!! I couldn’t agree more.

RC
RC
6 years ago

Nobody runs away from a happy life.

MrJames
MrJames
6 years ago

Shame on you, Doha news and in particular, the author Riham Sheble.
From even a cursory reading, you’ve used the word ‘escape’ four times in this article, and the word ‘abscond’ at least twice.
These workers are doing neither. They are simply choosing to leave their employer.

By using the words ‘escape’ and ‘abscond’, you’re reinforcing the idea that these workers are somehow in the wrong. They are not.
You, Doha News, clearly are in the wrong. Bigoted, shoddy journalism.

Rob
Rob
6 years ago
Reply to  MrJames

No, that’s not correct. DN has used “escape” only as used by others; it is always in inverted commas, to show that it is a direct quote, and not DN’s choice of words.

DavidRSS8
DavidRSS8
6 years ago
Reply to  Rob

To be fair “absconding” is a loaded term, too, as it applies escape.
abscond: “leave hurriedly and secretly, typically to escape from custody or avoid arrest”

How about “seek alternative employment opportunities” 😉

Ivan Brendieswski
Ivan Brendieswski
6 years ago
Reply to  DavidRSS8

I prefer, “find the employer not at standard and took their services elsewhere”.

Turbohampster
Turbohampster
6 years ago
Reply to  MrJames

As pointed out by others they are only quoting the original article!

Also if someone chooses to leave their employer, they don’t have to wait until they get to a different country where your basic human rights are upheld. If you have to to wait until you reach another country then you are indeed “escaping” as you weren’t free to leave in the first place….

AEC
AEC
6 years ago
Reply to  MrJames

I would agree. It is inappropriate to use the term “absconding” in the headline. The term is very loaded and usually relates to an illegal or illegitimate act. By using the term without clearly indicating they are quoting someone else Doha News is promoting the idea that legitimately choosing to leave ones employer is illegal or illegitimate when in fact it is a basic human right. Any comment DN?

Saleem
Saleem
6 years ago
Reply to  AEC

When you run away in a foreign country where you have no right to stay beyond the period in your temporary visa, you are breaking the law, not exercising “a basic human right”. The legal way for them to leave their employer is back when they were in Qatar.

AEC
AEC
6 years ago
Reply to  Saleem

I am sorry Saleem but you are utterly and completely wrong. For starters the person may not be staying beyond the period of their visa so no crime. Secondly whether they do or not is no business of their employer. Thirdly the visa arrangement is between the host country and the individual. It is nothing to do with the sponsor. When you are in another country the host country laws apply. In most western countries freedom of movement and association are considered basic human rights. If you try and impede those rights you may legitimately be charged with crimes of slavery or servitude. You can not stop someone choosing to leave your employment. If anyone wants to travel to a western country and take someone with them to work for them then they need to understand this or face the possible consequences.

Saleem
Saleem
6 years ago
Reply to  AEC

If you honestly believe a domestic worker on $250-400 a month would be issued a tourist visa to any Western country without a sponsor then there’s really not much I can say to you. There is a reason applications for visas require proof of sufficient funds, and it isn’t because the immigration officers are just nosy and just want to know how much money you have…

As for them respecting the validity period of their visas, are you actually implying that some would be willing to just “hang around” in a Western country and then purchase a ticket to go back to their home countries once their “trip” is done? These people come from impoverished backgrounds and their reason for working abroad was to save money and support family back home, so the notion of them enjoying a short holiday at the price of one year’s salary is extremely unrealistic.

AEC
AEC
6 years ago
Reply to  Saleem

Saleem – your comments are stating either the speculative or the obvious. I don’t think you’re getting the point.

Turbohampster
Turbohampster
6 years ago
Reply to  Saleem

You are obviously completely missing the point!

Just because a sponsor provides the financial support in order to meet the financial requirements of a visa. That does not mean that the person automatically forfeits their basic human rights of freedom of movement etc.
If someone really hates their job that much that, do you really think if they were able to leave freely they would stick around just in the hope that their employees might take them on a holiday to Europe?
They don’t go to hang around in a western country as you say, but rather take advantage of the fact that forcing someone to work against their will or controlling their movements is a crime and a violation of everyones basic human rights. So no they wouldn’t have to pay for their own ticket back home, they could approach their embassy or inform local authorities that they are being forced to work against their will and they would be sent home!

Saleem
Saleem
6 years ago
Reply to  Turbohampster

I never said they forfeit their human rights in exchange for a visa, I said if they sought to remain illegally in the country and seek employment, then they are in violation of the conditions stipulated on their visas, that is the situation I am referring to.

What you described is something different altogether, and I agree with you on it.

Turbohampster
Turbohampster
6 years ago
Reply to  Saleem

Agreed

But thats why AEC and I said you were missing the point as thats exactly what we were discussing.

outdoorsboys
outdoorsboys
6 years ago
Reply to  Saleem

Visitors to the UK have individual visas, not dependent on them staying in servitude to a fellow visitor. If domestic workers decide to resign, then they have that right- I do in my work. Perhaps Qataris should think more about the fact that they are employers not owners and act accordingly, with a proper contract which indicates acceptable working hours, time off, leave entitlement, pay and conditions, like every other employer does.
I employed an English, qualified nanny in the UK, who was paid a monthly salary, we paid her income tax and national insurance, she had 5 weeks annual holiday to take at her own choice, and we paid her car expenses. She stayed with us for 8 years, she and her now husband and children are regarded as dear members of the family. THAT is how to employ someone to care for your most treasured possession.

Saleem
Saleem
6 years ago
Reply to  outdoorsboys

Nobody said anything about the visas requiring them to stay in servitude to anyone, I said it was highly unlikely visas would be issued to those from poor backgrounds without financial sponsors.

And what language do you propose those contracts be in? Aside from the significant costs involved in legal translations, you do realize most of these workers are poorly educated, right? Furthermore if the employer violates one of the terms, you think these workers can just drop Qr. 15,000 to retain a lawyer?

What is needed are practical solutions not quixotic propositions. As I said before, only the authorities working with the recruitment agencies and embassies can offer more feasible solutions to regulate this area better.

outdoorsboys
outdoorsboys
6 years ago
Reply to  Saleem

Contracts should be available in the language spoken by the employee, as it is elsewhere in the world.

Aaron Smith
Aaron Smith
6 years ago

This week in Doha News: “Qataris disguised as nannies slip their families in Brazil using vanishing spray in order to climb mountains for charity.” Back page – “C-ring and Salwa meet together for best traffic condition maximize beware!”

johnny wang
johnny wang
6 years ago

They come to this parts to do an honest job and support their families back home and if they are forced to runaway then its more often then not because they just cannot put up with the abuse and ill treatment that they have to go through for the ridiculous low salaries that they are paid

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