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Ethiopia Imposes Ban on Workers to UAE

On July 27, 2012

Earlier this week, Ethiopia announced a moratorium on domestic and hard labor export to the UAE. The ban is intended to combat recruitment agency exploitation and abuse.

"We receive five to 10 complaints a day from our citizens of abuse, unpaid salaries and people being beaten. It's bad."

Unlike many bans from sending-nations, this move is not intended to pressure the UAE into enshrining improved labor rights for migrant workers. Instead, the Ethiopian government is attempting to impact the conduct of employers and of illegal recruitment agencies. The consulate indicated that it wants to encourage sponsor accountability and the use of legal, registered recruitment agencies. The government will use the 'break' in migration to study and address the issues faced by workers.

Despite the intended benefits of the moratorium, there are some concerns with this approach. Illegal migration is rarely effected by such policies, as by definition, its agents operate outside legal confines. The Ethiopian consulate estimates that approximately 250 to 300 migrants illegally enter the UAE every day, many of whom are trafficked in through Oman. These activities are unlikely to be affected by the moratorium.

Additionally, the plight of Ethiopian workers is not exclusive to the UAE. "Migrant nightmares: Ethiopian domestic workers in the Gulf," provides an in-depth report of the entwined struggles Ethopians endure across the region. The government must review Gulf-wide policies to comprehensively improve the conditions of migrant workers.