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Increase in Registered Cases of Abuse of Indonesian Maids in Abu Dhabi

On April 2, 2010

The Khaleej Times reported yesterday about a significant increase in the number of cases of abuse registered at the Indonesian embassy in Abu Dhabi.

According to the embassy, most of the complaints are about unpaid wages and work overload while other complaints are about physical and sexual abuse. In 2009, a total of 2,599 complaints by domestic workers were registered in the embassy, marking a rise of 24% from 2008, with "only" 1,618 cases. The Indonesian embassy claimed that unskilled workers, who make up of 75% of the Indonesian workers in the UAE, come into conflict with their sponsor over inability to perform certain tasks and communication problems. The Embassy also leveled blame against Indonesian recruitment agencies that unbeknown to the maids change clauses in their work contracts when they're translated into English, resulting in later conflicts with sponsors.

As the Indonesian embassy reported a rise in the number of complaints in 2009, the UAE Ministry of Interior released statistics for 2008, showing a significant drop in the number of cases referred to the Dispute Settlement Sections in the Department of Naturalisation and Residency at the ministry. According to the ministry's statistics, in 2008 the Dispute Settlement Sections dealt with 8,216 cases of maids, 687 of them in the Abu Dhabi emirate. In 2007, on the other hand, the Section dealt with 19,814 cases. In the Indonesian embassy statistics, which account for 2008 and Indonesian maids alone in Abu Dhabi, there were 1,618 cases. Even assuming that all the cases the Ministry of Interior dealt with in Abu Dhabi in 2008 were that of Indonesian maids, there is a gap of about 1,000 cases that never reached the ministry.

While the Ministry of Interior prides itself on the drop in the number of cases it dealt with, it should examine the causes for the drop - the arbitration's ineffectiveness (as the Indonesian embassy's stats suggest) or a real drop in the number of abused maids. It seems that maids simply prefer to approach their embassy in cases of abuse, instead of dealing with the ineffective Ministry of Interior.