Op-ed in a Jordanian Daily: We Need to Appreciate Migrant Workers

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Dec 7 2009

The following is a translation of an op-ed appeared in the Jordanian daily Al-Dustour this week.

Labor Migrants
Nazih Elqusus
5 December, 2009

Labor migrants in Jordan are divided into two categories: the first being Arab laborers who come from Egypt and Syria and most of them work in the fields of construction and agriculture, and the second is the maids coming from southeast Asia to work in homes or practice other professions in nursing, work in restaurants, etc.

The first category of labor migrants has been very useful to us, and no one can deny giving them credit because they are the ones who contributed to the construction of hundreds of residential and commercial buildings as well as hotels. They also worked in agriculture and herding in various areas around Jordan, and without them, we do not know how to function due to the scarcity of Jordanian laborers or due to the fact that some Jordanian youth refrain from working in the construction or agriculture sectors.

The second category on the other hand, are housemaids who have worked in the homes of Jordanians, and some of them are considered to be the heads of the household because they raise the children, clean the house and cook the food, and without them, a large percentage of Jordanian women would not have been able to work because they have children in need of care.

These two categories of labor migrants have contributed so much to our country and we should never deny that. Up until this moment, we are still in dire need of their services, and for that reason, we should respect them and never mistreat them, as some of us do.

We heard a lot about some maids who are subjected to maltreatment by some families to the point of brutal torture and deprivation of food, drink and clothing. We heard a lot about suicide cases among some maids and these suicides did not occur out of nowhere, but rather resulted from a never-ending cycle of mental depression inflicted by families. We also heard a lot about maids who flee the homes of their employers and most of them runaway because they lack a sense of mental comfort or well-being. The maid who leaves her family, husband and children behind and crosses thousands of kilometers in search of work is in need of some of our care and kindness and not the torture, deprivation and oppression inflicted by some of us.

Furthermore, labor migrants who stood by us and by our country are also in need of some care and respect. They need to feel their self-worth and humanity, for they leave their families, wives, children and loved ones behind, and for that reason we should treat them with utmost humanity, which is what our religion, morals and traditions require from us. And the Ministry of Labor should not come up with a new law or regulation every day that shakes the comfort of these laborers.

Some suggest that we meet once a year to honor these migrant laborers and housemaids and that this commemoration takes place on a national level to acknowledge their work and express our appreciation towards the indispensable services they provide us.

Advancing the rights of migrant workers throughout the Middle East