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Dubai Police Restate Link Between Crime & Employer Abuse

On June 25, 2013

Dubai Police once again affirmed the connection between exploitative working conditions and crimes committed by domestic workers. Police also tied employer abuse to domestic worker crime last year and urged fair treatment to prevent acts of “revenge”. Such acknowledgements are critical to challenging prevailing social conceptions of domestic workers as untrustworthy and mischievous, which justify excessive restrictions on their movement outside of the home as well as on their communication. However, subsequent police commentary tends to undermine the potential influence of official acknowledgement; For example, authorities encourage employers to further monitor domestic workers, despite the scope of control employers exercise over workers is already excessive of international norms. The recognition of employer’s complicity in domestic workers crime should instead lead to the conclusion that restrictions are not necessary preventative measures as workers do not have a predilection towards crime - fair and equitable treatment, including compliance with contracts, are sufficient.

Furthermore, police cited the number of crimes committed by domestic workers in the past year, but did not offer parallel statistics for employer crimes. Instead, authorities state that the number is “not high.” However, authorities fail to note that official counts appear comparatively low - so low they are deemed not worth collecting - because domestic workers have limited ability to report abuse; many are physically constrained from reporting to authorities or rightfully fear deportation if they lodge complaints. But authorities consistently seek to depict employer abuse as anecdotal rather than acknowledge the systematic reality, due in large part to structural causes such as the sponsorship system and the paucity in legislative protections. Such distortions reinforce conceptions of migrants as malevolent, with real consequences for both their social and working conditions.