Indonesian embassy enters fray over maids’ rights in Qatar

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Saying it cannot afford to help the increasing number of runaway maids seeking shelter at its embassy, Indonesian officials here suspended recruitment of domestic workers to Qatar earlier this month.

According to the Peninsula, some three to five maids seek shelter at the embassy every day. But now that officials have conveyed to recruiters and employers how serious they are about maids’ rights, the embassy is considering lifting the ban after the weekend, the newspaper reports:

“If there is no improvement, we may be forced to take such measures again,” said (Novi Fitmawati, a senior embassy official)…

The main complaints of the runaway maids are related to long working hours, lack of days off, low salary or non-payment of salary. The recruiting agents, sponsors and the maids — all are to be held responsible for the rise in the number of runaway housemaids, said the official.

Meanwhile, Fitmawati expressed support for a new GCC-wide draft law on domestic workers that, if implemented, would give them fixed working hours and end of service benefits, among other things.

However, Al Sharq previously reported that a clause guaranteeing one day off a week for the workers has been a stumbling point in negotiations. 

According to the newspaper, the draft is stuck at the Council of Family Affairs because some individuals “do not find some of its provisions to be in line with the domestic work environment in Qatar.”

Ongoing debate

Qatar has been talking about passing a law to shore up domestic workers’ rights for more than a year.

But progress has been slow, as employers push back against requests from governments for better treatment. Late last year, Qatar imposed an unofficial ban on maid visas for women from the the Philippines following a request that sponsors honor a $400 minimum monthly wage. 

Qatar relies heavily on countries like Indonesia, Nepal and the Philippines for its domestic workers. Still, if something isn’t done to appease these nations, the government is hedging its bets by looking to other poor nations for labor.

Thoughts?

Credit: Photo by Armando Torrealba

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