‘Maid for rent’ in the Middle East alarming says migrants group

FILIPINO migrants rights group expressed alarm on the increasing number of ‘maid for rent’ in the Middle East

Migrante-Middle East (M-ME) regional coordinator John Leonard Monterona said ‘maid for rent is now  rampant that it even created a market of maid that is not only illegal but also dehumanizes migrant household service workers.”

Monterona explained that under abusive and restrictive working condition, an agency-deployed OFW household service worker is force to run away from her original employer or sponsor where she is to work contractually. ‘The OFW reports and seek the assistance of the Philippine-based recruitment agency’s counterpart foreign recruitment agency (FRA) who will offer her to be transferred to another employer, if negotiations with the original sponsor-employer failed.’

Monterona noted as per most of the Gulf Cooperating Council-member (GCC) countries, a maid has to exclusively work for her sponsor, who is responsible for her legal and financial status during her stay in the host country.

The host government imposes fines maximum of 30,000 riyals and ban the employer or agency to hire maids for five years, and once the absconding maid is apprehended she will be deported back to her country of origin.

Last year, the Saudi labor ministry, acting on the complaints of a group of Saudi recruitment agencies, ordered to stop the hiring of maid from the Philippines and Indonesia pending resolution of the issues being raised related to salary and protection of the deployed maid amid incidents of rampant deaths and abuses.

However, Monterona added, the shortage of maid primarily due to restrictions imposed by the Saudi government on the recruitment of foreign workers especially household service workers gave rise to maid for rent phenomenon run by a group of brokers who make each maid, most of them ran away, work in more than one household.

“Particularly during Ramadan, the services of maids are badly needed by Arab families, thus even absconders or ran away maids were hired,” Monterona noted.

Monterona cited the case of ‘Normina’ (not her real name as she requested anonymity), a household service worker and an absconder, who is working with two Saudi households.

“Ilang years na akong TNT, kailangan mag-work para magsurvive at makapagpadala sa pamilya. Nahanapan ako ng 2 employers ng broker ko kahit part-time part-time lang (I have been an absconder for years, I need to survive and have work so that I could send remittance to my family. My broker helped me find two employers though I am working part time with them),” Normina confessed to Monterona.

“If I will be paid, for instance, 800 riyals a month, 300 to 400 riyals goes to my broker,” Normina added.

Normina disclosed to Monterona that she has friends, Filipinos and Indonesians, who were handed over by their sponsor-employer to their relatives to work with them for a week or two. “Minsan binibigyan sila ng additional pay, pero madalas wala (Sometimes, they were given extra pay, but often nothing).”

Monterona said: Kung sa Pilipinas eto, there’s nothing wrong kung ang maid ay mag-part time sa ibang employer para madagdagan ang kita. Pero sa Middle East, given the rampant cases of abuses and the restriction of the host government’s labor and immigration laws, nasa dehadong estado at peligro ang ating mga household services workers.’

“This is a clear harmful off shot of deregulated labor export program by the PHL government wherein in agency system and brokers, as middlemen, are given by the government full leeway in peddling OFWs labor cheap,” Monterona said.

Monterona called on the Aquino govt. through the Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) and the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) and Philippine Overseas Labor offices (POLOs) in the Middle East to investigate this maid-for-rent phenomenon in view of providing on-site protection to deployed Filipino household service workers who are often victim of labor malpractice and abuse.

‘The Aquino government must be aggressive in providing on-site protection and welfare services to OFWs by seriously engaging host governments to respect and uphold migrants rights and welfare such as by urging the latter to pass local social legislations and by ratifying international instruments like the UN Convention on the Protection of All Migrants and members of their families, and the ILO Domestic Workers Convention,” Monterona said.

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