Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Maid - Unholy Acts In The Holiest Place (10)

Runaway Maids Eating Into Family Budgets  
By RIMA AL-MUKHTAR 

JEDDAH: There are many reports of housemaids being abused or beaten, and occasionally even murdered. However, there is another side to the story.
The large number of housemaids running away from their employers is causing untold problems, including social embarrassments and additional financial burdens for many Saudi families.
“It costs a lot to recruit a housemaid, with fees that go up to SR15,000. This includes recruitment fees, plane ticket and visa,” said Abu Faisal, a recruitment office manager in Jeddah. “If the maid runs away, the employer loses all the money he spent hiring her.”
Maids run away for several reasons, but they are mostly greedy and search for jobs in other households to make more money, according to Abu Faisal.
“Many maids run away from their sponsors as soon as they land in the Kingdom, knowing that they will find a job no matter what, for people are always looking for maids,” he said.
“They know this and plan to run away before even arriving here. Sometimes they arrange it with their friends to guarantee them a better salary,” he added.
“They just need someone to recruit them and pay for their visa and ticket, and once they are here they start looking for jobs with better wages,” said Abu Faisal.
Runaway maids accuse their previous employers of abuse and mistreatment. “My Indonesian maid once told me that her friend was looking for work. I asked her to bring her by so that I could hire her to work for me. Once she came I asked about her previous job and why she left, and that’s when she said that her sponsor used to deprive her of food and did not pay her for her work,” said Moneera Al-Qahtani, housewife and mother.
“When she told me the name of her sponsor I knew she was lying, because it turned out to be my cousin, and later I found out that she worked for him for only two days before she ran away,” Al-Qahtani added.
Frustrated employers are no longer recruiting from outside the Kingdom, but look for help from within.  “I will no longer pay so much money, knowing that my maid might run away and cost me even more. For years now I have been asking my friends and family to bring me maids. I don’t care if they are illegal or don’t have iqama, I only care that my house is clean and my maid does not cost me more than SR1,000 a month,” said Nahed Ibraheem, a working woman.
“I have bad experiences with maids running away even if they are treated like my own daughters. I don’t know why they have the urge to leave suddenly, even when I tell them that I would never hold them if they wanted to go. They just have to tell me in advance so I can arrange for another one,” she added.
At least some employers see maids as a threat to their safety and private life.
“Everyone in the Kingdom looks at us as if we are spoiled and vulgar, for they think our maids are running away because we abuse them and do not provide them with food. They don’t want to admit that we are the people who are suffering, because we are letting complete strangers inside our houses to look into our drawers,” said Kholoud Badr, a high school teacher.
“After years I found out that my maid was a part time prostitute, offering her services to drivers in our neighborhood. This freaked me out because I have two young daughters, and it’s not safe for them to stay at home alone. My question is this: How can you make sure that your maid is not a psychopath or a murderer? We don’t think about these things; we only care about the service,” she added.
Police only arrest maids who are accused of a crime, not runaways, said First Lt. Nawaf Al-Bouq, spokesman for Jeddah police.
“According to the regulations, policemen are not allowed to get involved in the search of maids who run away from their sponsors. We only interfere when the employer accuses his maid of robbery or any criminal act,” he said. “We then liaise with the Passport Department to join forces and search for the suspect.”
All attempts to get a response from the Passport Department failed.

Source: Arab News - April 22, 2011

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Some maids run away because they miss their children after minding their employers' kids.

Not to deter runaway maids, personal bond among employers and employees need to to be cultivated.
It was said that no less than 50 housemaids abandon their Saudi employers every month.

Some maids, coming from remote places, were not train to work, thus were unable to operate electrical appliances.
They are unable to perform basic jobs like handling electrical appliances and so make mistakes, something that angers their employers resulting in beatings and torture.
The housemaids then either run away or the sponsor tries to get rid of them.
Most of these women who are from the rural areas, they do not know how to use modern gadgets.
Breaking or mishandling them will be rewarded with scoldings and beatings by their employers.

More domestic workers are expected to run away from their employers before and after the month of Ramadhan.
The big workload during the Ramadhan season drives many of these maids to leave their employment.
Work period starts from dawn to past midnight until the following morning.

Although it is not only illegal, but also a violation of human rights, many Saudi families loan their housemaids and other household helps, to extended members of their families during Ramadan.
This is an encouraged reason for the runaway.
Those with great intention to run away during Ramadhan but was unable to, will do so after the season.

Some housemaids run away due to unpaid wages or delay in salaries.
Thus it adds up to losing situation that claims Saudi families lose more than SR500 million a year because of these domestic workers who run away.

Runaway maids had become a phenomenon.
But those maids who came to the country on maid visas specifically to elope with their suitors, led to much to much chagrin to their employers who had paid much money to process the paperwork to get the maid to the Kingdom.

A maid who had worked for four years in Saudi Arabia told Me of her friend who was enticed by a family driver to abandon her employer, only to have herself rape and kept by this driver, without the employer knew of her whereabout.
She was kept in an isolated place, with all contacts cutoff.

Lately, there are reports of Saudi police busting prostitution ring involving Asian housemaids who fled from their employers.

Some runaway maids were then recruited by agencies that are accredited by the Saudi government, and some others were outsourced into the black labour market.
Some were offered an alternative family, but were charged commission.
Both employers and employees were charged fees. 

Read On...
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From Frying Pan To Fire Runaway Maids End Up In Harsher Conditions

JEDDAH: Housemaids who flee their sponsors due to bad working conditions to seek work in the black labor market often end up in a situation of jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire.
In many cases they find themselves at the mercy of sleazy labor brokers who send them to work illegally in conditions that are little different from the legal situations, and often much worse. 
“They seize our IDs, lock us up in secluded rooms and make us live in very difficult conditions, which is no less than indentured servitude,” a maid told Arab News on condition she not be named.
Nuriyyah, an Indonesian maid who has been working for two years in Saudi Arabia, describes the situation she found herself in as “slavery” after being legally recruited and brought to the Kingdom. The wage she ended up receiving was not enough to feed her family back home.
“My sponsor often delayed my payment under the pretext that he had other pressing commitments,” she said. “I had no other choice but to flee.”
Nuriyyah said she lived in a small apartment after her escape with a large number of illegal housemaids who came for Haj or Umrah and overstayed their pilgrimage visas.  She said the man who ran the house essentially acted as an illegal-labor broker.
But what Nuriyyah discovered is that people who hire maids illegally often end up being worse than employers who seek workers through legal channels and at greater expense.  “The new employer and his wife used to beat and humiliate me all the time,” she said. “They also took my iqama. I served them for my food only.”
The maid says she has never been paid for her work. Eventually she fled her illegal employers. She ended up under the Sitteen Bridge, a congregation point for foreign laborers who have fled their sponsors in the hope they will be picked up by the police and deported.
Another Indonesian maid, who did not want to be named, said though she had been an adventurer all her life and would work hard to earn money, she had fears that she might fall victim to inhuman practices on the hands of her new employers.
“I now live in a small house with a large number of illegal African and Asian housemaids,” she said. “The brokers who distribute us among their customers do not care much for what will happen to us. They are only after money.”
She added that she was living in very difficult conditions in this house but her need for money would force her to continue.
The unidentified Indonesian housemaid said she witnessed her co-workers being beaten by merciless employers who know that illegal domestic servants are essentially hostages with few choices.
“Many housemaids had similar experiences but were finally able to make some money and go back home. In order to succeed, you have to take chances,” she said.
Commenting on the issue, spokesman for Jeddah police Col. Misfer Al-Juaid said many of the houses that accommodate runaway maids are found in the districts of Al-Bawadi, Ghulail and Kandara.
“We carry out weekly raids on such houses after identifying them,” he said. “We arrest the illegal residents, take their fingerprints before handing them over to the Passport Department for deportation.”
After these workers end up in the custody of Saudi immigration authorities, a long process for exit clearance takes place. Often these workers have no ID because their passports are with the employers from whom they fled. Saudi authorities must work with foreign missions to establish identities and check for criminal backgrounds before they can be sent home. 
Al-Juaid pointed out that an illegal worker can be exposed to more abuse than legal workers, because sponsors are aware that there is little recourse for reporting or challenging abusive situations. “The illegal housemaids bear all these inhuman treatment in order not to be caught by the passport police and sent back home,” he added.
The most common form of maid abuse is not paying salaries, followed by physical and sexual abuse. The Saudi authorities do not offer statistics of the number of abuse cases reported to them, but the problem is acute enough that labor rights activists and foreign missions – especially of Indonesia and the Philippines – maintain shelters for fleeing maids, especially women.
Supervisor of the National Society for Human Rights in Makkah province Hussain Al-Sharif described violence against housemaids as inhuman and un-Islamic.
“Just because they are paying them money, some employers will come to believe that they literally own their housemaids and they have the right to ask them to do anything,” he said.
Al-Sharif agreed with Al-Juaid, saying that illegal workers face a greater chance of being abused with impunity.
“Violence against housemaids, whether they are legal or illegal stayers, is inhuman and totally against Islam,” he added. “We completely reject such practices and deplore exploitation of any human being.”
Al-Sharif asked all employers to consider the pressing conditions that drove the housemaids to come all they way from their countries in the first place. The main reason is remittances, the money they can save up to send home to feed their children or other family members. Not paying a maid could mean a child back home goes without food, clothing or medicines.

Source: A1 Saudi Arabia - January 12, 2011

3 comments:

Uncle Lee said...

Hi Ummie, you know, I am surprised, my wife too that practically every family has a maid today. In Kl, Singapore, the big towns.
Here only the rich can....

And boleh ketawa when families migrate here so used to having a maid back home, they lintang pukang here no maid, do everything themselves.

Really regret about the stories, experiences of both parties reading your posting.
Best regards.
Lee.

Ibu said...

Salam Ummie
We're all human. Nobody perfect. Not badmouthing anybody just the fact.
Went back to work after 6yrs n my first n only pembantu says - 'before 5pm my duty, after 5pm giliran ibu pulak'. Ha ha ha klakr nyer budak ni. Ku turutkan lah (takut dia kerenyah anak2 pulak)
I worked frm home with 4 anak. Tawakkal & tolerate 6mths (pasal work commtmt n my kids in her hands). To be fair she did what is my requiremts just maybe its too much, hence the demands. Quit my job n send her back to agent. I cant afford the demands. Yrs later the eldest (was 8 that time) said bibik take the baby to watch tv in lock rm & leave the other 3 when mummy do errands. Hmmm....
No car, no excess money boleh hambor2 but am happy with what my hubby bring hm n the kids turned out quite alright.
While raising them, I volunteered PSGs, Mendaki n Sinda. Now am doing asmaul husna. Tak sia2 kan.

Ummie said...

Mr Lee,
Practically every family has a maid in M'sia & S'pore, most probably? it's good to have a rich feeling. Or, having a maid can make oneself rich?
Being having too much time in hand, lots of money can be made...

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Ms Ibu,
Scary bibik take the baby to watch tv in lock rm & leave the other 3...
As others say, it is all luck & lots of tawakkaltu 'ala LLAH.
But yours a bit on the 'you need me more than I need you.'
I've seen many such incidences too.

Really respect your volunteerism blood - PSGs, Mendaki, Sinda, Asma'ul Husna...

Me, just reading & sharing away...