Dubai: Long working hours, abuse and unpaid salaries are pushing maids to run away, Dubai Police have warned in a new awareness campaign.
Col Abdul Rahman Al Shair, director of human trafficking control centre at Dubai Police, said the force held a two-day campaign recently in two malls to distribute awareness brochures to sponsors and maids. The campaign, called ‘Treat them with kindness’, reached out to 300 maids, especially maids who are working with Emirati families.
He said many absconding maids end up as human trafficking victims after being duped by criminals who ecourage them to escape from their sponsors.
The annual report of the National Committee to Combat Human Trafficking recorded eight such cases in Dubai in 2016, 31 suspects arrested and 11 victims rescued. Most of the cases were of absconding maids forced to work in prostitution.
“It is important to treat maids with mercy and pay their salaries on time and place them in good conditions. Maids are not slaves and they must have proper food and health, and should not be made to work for more than eight hours a day,” Col Al Shair said.
“Abusing maids is a form of exploitation and it’s punishable by the law. People should treat their maids with kindness and not assault them. Some sponsors push maids to escape.”
Col Al Shair said that during the campaign, an Emirati sponsor complained that the campaign was provoking maids against sponsors by informing maids about their rights. “We told him that we are educating the maids so they do not escape and cause problems to you [sponsors]. We want the maids to be aware of the dangers of escaping from the sponsor because they can be used in wrong ways,” he added.
Many maids also benefited from the campaign as police advised them not to be fooled by strangers who offer help to them to escape in hopes of a higher salary.
“Our main target is that the maid shouldn’t be lured by other workers, like grocery shop owners, to escape from her sponsor thinking she will earn more money. Many absconding maids have suffered and have been abused in the sex industry or otherwise mistreated and fallen victim to human trafficking,” Col Al Shair told Gulf News.
“Human trafficking dealers target maids and lure them to escape from their sponsors and later the maid is locked inside a flat without food or water and forced to work in sex trade. They can’t return to their sponsors as they are afraid of the sponsor’s reaction. We want them to understand the laws and their rights.”
Dubai Police asked the public to call 999 or 8007283 for any enquiry related to human trafficking or absconding maids.
“The UAE ranks first among Arab states whose laws prohibit slavery and human trafficking,” Col Al Shair said.
What the law says
According to the Federal Law on Human Trafficking, Article No. 1, exploitation includes all forms of sexual exploitation, engaging others in prostitution, servitude, forced labour, organ trafficking and slavery.
The punishment for human trafficking is minimum five years’ imprisonment and a Dh100,000 fine. Punishments could be stiffer depending on the type of crime committed.