Ethiopian African House Maid
A maid cleaning. For illustrative purposes only. Image Credit: Agency

Abu Dhabi/Dubai: The Ethiopian government has stopped sending women for employment as domestic workers in GCC countries, including the UAE, a government official confirmed to Gulf News on Wednesday.

The UAE government has also confirmed that the temporary ban is from the Ethiopian government’s side, and it’s applicable for a number of Arab countries, including all the GCC nations.

Sources at the Consulate General of Ethiopia in UAE told Gulf News that the ban started last week and it’s still in force.

However, the Ethiopian and the UAE governments are negotiating a memorandum of understanding (MoU), to safeguard the rights of Ethiopian domestic workers in the UAE.

“Recently, we have experienced in some cases that our workers faced problems of non-payment of wages and being denied health insurance. The temporary ban on recruitment of Ethiopian domestic workers is the first step to weeding out unscrupulous agencies and abusive sponsors,” the official said.

Every day, as many as 400 Ethiopians enter the UAE. “When they reach the country, most of them land in trouble, as they do not know they are to work as housemaids,” the official said.

There is a significant Ethiopian population in the UAE — close to 100,000, a large number of which are domestic workers.

As per the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation’s (MOHRE’s) announcement No 6, 2018, Ethiopian workers’ arrival to the UAE has been stopped temporarily. However, the ministry has urged typing centres, who prepare entry permits for Ethiopian workers, to be aware of the new ban before typing the permits.

If they type entry permit applications for Ethiopian workers from December 11 onwards, the centre will be held responsible.

Gulf News visited a number of typing centres in Sharjah and Ajman on Tuesday and they confirmed that they have ceased typing applications for Ethiopian domestic workers.

Hapless illegals

Ethiopia has banned its citizens from applying for domestic or blue-collar jobs in the UAE, until an agreement can be reached to protect their rights.

The Ethiopian government issued a temporary deployment ban on its citizens looking for work as domestic and blue-collar staff in the UAE. The Ethiopian government was alarmed by the increase in people being illegally recruited and trafficked to the country.

But the deployment ban could be lifted “very soon” once the labour agreement between the UAE and Ethiopia is finalised, he said. It will include the scope of work, limitations, and protection of maids, among other stipulations. Legal frameworks will also be in place to close all illegal channels through airports, immigration and all networks, and to bring violators to justice.

He said an unknown number of Ethiopian domestic workers are in the country illegally, brought here by illegal agents mostly based in Ajman.

“There is cooperation between both the UAE and Ethiopian governments; we are trying to fight illegal recruitment and human trafficking. So we are making a concerted effort and the UAE government is making a huge effort, especially fighting human trafficking,” the official said.

Recruitment agencies should take responsibility for housemaids from the time they enter the country, but what happens is the opposite, he said.

Some recruitment agencies have brought Ethiopian men and women to the UAE and kept them in crowded rooms, sending them out to work one by one for commission. These hapless Ethiopian nationals are victims who’ve paid a huge amount of money in order to come to the UAE, often after selling properties back home.

Suicide is not uncommon among these illegal workers, he added.