Saturday, January 30, 2016
Ethiopian immigrants returning from Saudi Arabia arrive at Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa
MOGADISHU (HOL) – In Saudi Arabia, employers have a history of abusing foreign domestic workers lured by the promise of well-paid jobs in what former workers described as an exploitation of desperate Africans facing grim choices.
New cases of abuses against Somali domestic workers in Saudi Arabia are still being reported, with employers often beat, and deny food and payments of Somali maids. In some cases male employers rape them in addition to reports of Somali maids who had their eyes gouged out by their employers.
Kenya, Ethiopia and Uganda have recently banned their citizens from seeking jobs in Saudi Arabia in a bid to end the exploitation, making domestic workers from Somalia the only alternative left for Saudi employers after most of African and Asians rejected their recruitment request.
Pushing for a new mass recruitment drive, Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Labor on Tuesday announced the opening of recruiting operations of domestic workers from Somalia while setting terms and conditions.
According to the Saudi newspaper Arab News, Somali maids would have fulfill conditions set by the ministry as that applicants are acquire to have a certificate from the Somali Ministry of Security stating they have no previous criminal records, besides vaccination certificates against contagious diseases.
Despite calls to ban Somali domestic workers from working in the kingdom, it remains unclear whether the Saudi government which had been slammed by human rights organizations for its treatment of domestic workers, largely from Africa and Asia is in cahoots with the Somali authorities over the recruitment issue.
Related: Uganda bans housemaids from working in Saudi Arabia
“Sending our girls to Saudi Arabia is totally wrong due to abuses by the employers,” said Mohamud Ahmed Nur, the former Mogadishu mayor.
“Our ladies are the symbol of our integrity; therefore I am calling for the [Somali] government not repeat that mistake of sending our ladies to Saudi Arabia before they are thrown off tall buildings or have their legs tied up like slaves.” He said.
Among the countries that recently banned its citizens from working in Saudi Arabia is Indonesia after two maids from the country were beheaded for murder in Saudi Arabia.
Some of the former domestic workers described their work conditions ‘grim’ with employers forced them to work extra hours, and at some point deprived them of sleep time.
“It felt like I was in a prison – the daily work was endless and you would be subject to any abuses at any given time.” said Zainab Abdirashid who left her employment in 2011, after her employer woman broke her index finger with cane she used to beat her.
“It was totally unbearable.” she said sadly.
She warned Somali government of sending Somali women to Saudi Arabia.
As the news of abuses emerged, Somalis around the world took to the social media, calling Somali government to return the domestic workers already sent to Saudi or bear the responsibility of any human rights violations committed against them.
“Let’s not accept a modern slavery please – As usual, Saudi Arabia deports, kills and abuses our people, so whats the point of their work?.” tweeted Ahmed Jailani who lives in China.
Others also accused the Saudi government of bribing Somali officials to secure the government’s authorization in recruiting Somali domestic workers, urging Somali officials to seek employment opportunities for the women rather than sending to Saudi Arabia
“Hey Somalis – Saudi has done no mistake, we have to hold our so-called leaders accountable for their slapdash decision of exchanging our women for money.” said Abdirahman Dhere who lives in Mogadishu in a post on his Facebook page.