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Concern on the issue of female Somali domestic workers

Monday, February 22, 2016

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The Global Somali Diaspora (GSD) received countless messages from Somalis all over the world clearly concerned and bewildered by the news that the Somali government intends to send female Somali domestic workers to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

It has been reported that

Somalia will send workers mainly if not exclusively women to Saudi Arabia.  Our concern and that of all the people who contacted us is for the safeguarding and well-being of these workers.

The public would like to get a clarification on a number of issues including the following:

1. How many women will be sent to work in Saudi Arabia and how long?

2.  Does the Somali government have an agreement with the Saudi government or a private entity?

3.  Has the Somali government taken all necessary measures to ensure that the International Labour Organization’s rules such as reasonable work hours, a limit on in-kind payment, clear information on terms and conditions of employment, as well as respect for fundamental human rights and rights at work place including freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining are not violated?

It is well known that domestic work is extremely undervalued and invisible in Saudi Arabia since it is mainly carried out by women and girls many of whom are migrants or members of the disadvantaged, socially or in the case of the Somalis economically who are particularly vulnerable to discrimination and abuse

This matter is made particularly urgent by the fact that Saudi Arabia has a well-documented history of domestic workers mistreatments as documented by the rights groups including extreme physical abuse, confiscation of travel documents, withholding of payments and threat of deportation against anyone who report any of these outrageous acts.  Just recently several countries including Uganda brought back their women (Ugandan nationals). They worked as maids in Saudi Arabia and after complaining of alleged abuses they were returned to their native country.

We urge the Somali government to investigate this urgent matter and take appropriate and timely action to ensure the labour and human rights of these workers (Somali nationals) are protected.

We hope for a speedy resolution as we remain confident that the Somali government will act in accordance with the International Labour Organization's rules and afford these women dignity and basic human rights.  We will continue to follow up and shine light on this issue for as long as deemed necessary.

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