Dubai: A new department dedicated to resolving disputes between domestic helpers and sponsors has opened at the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs (GDRFA) branch in Al Aweer.
The department, a sub-branch of the Follow up on Illegals and Foreigners Sector, was opened just over a month ago and will handle complaints from domestic helpers in Dubai and resolve their concerns.
Since the beginning of the year, the Follow up on Illegals and Foreigners Sector received 226 dispute cases between sponsors and domestic helpers. A dedicated department was then set up to handle cases related to domestic helpers.
The domestic helpers’ category includes occupations such as nannies, drivers, cooks, maids, farmers, and watchmen.
Although the department in Al Aweer is specifically dedicated to resolving complaints by domestic helpers, there is a dispute section in the main headquarters of the GDRFA in Al Jafliya where complaints from any class of employee can be lodged.
Meanwhile, the number of complaints lodged by domestic helpers is decreasing, officials say. In the first half of this year, the department received 186 complaints from domestic helpers.
In 2012, 475 out of the total 582 complaints came from domestic helpers. In 2013, the number dropped to 492, out of which 386 were related to domestic helpers. In 2014, a total of 423 complaints were received, out of which 326 were from domestic helpers.
Decrease in number of cases
Major General Mohammad Ahmad Al Merri, Director of the GDRFA in Dubai, told Gulf News the new Domestic Helpers Department comprises four sections. “The department was founded in order to protect the rights of domestic helpers in Dubai and improve relations between them and their sponsors,” Maj Gen Al Merri said. “The department is designed to help reach a resolution to any disputes domestic helpers have with employers. Each of the four sections of the department has a specific designation.”
The first section is dedicated to settling disputes, the second is in charge of investigations, the third handles the department’s hotline and raises awareness, while the fourth licenses domestic helpers agencies in Dubai.
He stressed the importance of informing domestic helpers how to go about lodging complaints to the department and informing them about their rights and duties.
“It is a crime to mistreat workers, not pay them on time and not grant them leave days,” he said. “We will be conducting awareness campaigns throughout the year to educate people about the rights and duties of domestic helpers.”
He said domestic helpers must be given appropriate accommodation and treated well without being subjected to violence.
Contacting the department
Noora Hassan Ali, Head of the Dispute Settlement Section, said there is a decrease in the number of domestic helpers’ cases.
“We receive five to six cases a day,” she said, “however, the number could increase after Ramadan.”
The department resolved most cases and very few went to court, she said, adding that 90 per cent of the cases were related to delay or non-payment of salary.
“As per the labour contract, the sponsor must not delay payment of salary for more than two months,” she said.
“It is against the law to sponsor a domestic helper and allow him/her to work for someone else. In such cases, the sponsor will be prosecuted.”
She said if a sponsor refuses to cooperate with the department, his files at the GDRFA and the files of all his companies will be blocked.
Major Gazi Al Nuaimi, Deputy Acting Assistant of the Director for Follow Up Affairs at the Follow up on Illegals and Foreigners Sector, said most complaints received by the domestic helpers dispute section are related to the delay or non-payment of their salaries.
“We also receive a number of complaints related to passport confiscation and requests to cancel residence visa,” he said. “We also receive complaints from sponsors on absconding cases.”
Capt Hussain Darwish Abbas, Director of the Domestic Helpers Department, said the domestic helpers department accepts any kind of complaint, whether from sponsors, domestic helpers or recruitment agencies. The public can complain either via ‘Amer service’ or they can show up personally at the Follow up on Illegals and Foreigners Sector in Al Aweer. “They can call Amer on the toll-free number 80051111. They can also reach us directly on 04 7074878 or 04 7074889,” he said. “Alternatively, they can email us.”
Capt Abbas said that after lodging complaints, both the sponsor and the domestic helper must come to the domestic helpers’ department or they can lodge the complaint via the recruitment agency or the consulate of their country. “When we receive any complaints we investigate the issue and try to sort it out amicably,” he said. “If we fail to solve the problem we advise them to approach the civil court.”
Capt Abbas said the department sometimes receives complaints from outside the country.
“We get calls from domestic helpers who face an absconding case while he or she is outside the country,” he said. “In such situations, we contact the sponsor and we solve the case in accordance with the law.”