The United Arab Emirates is a destination for men and women predominantly from South and Southeast Asia, trafficked for the purposes of labour and commercial sexual exploitation. Migrant workers make up over 90 per cent of the UAE’s private sector workforce and are recruited from India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Ethiopia, Eritrea, China, and the Philippines. Though some travel willingly, they are subjected to conditions of modern slavery including withholding of passports, non-payment of wages, restrictions of movement and threats of physical and sexual abuse. Trafficking of domestic workers is facilitated by the fact that normal protections for workers under UAE labour laws do not apply to domestic workers, leaving them more vulnerable to abuse
Shelly A. travelled from the Philippines to the UAE for domestic work. Her sponsor forced her to work under the threat of physical abuse and her employer withheld her salary, paying only the initial 3 months but making her sign receipts stating she was in receipt of her salary. Her employer took her passport, confined her to the house and subjected her to physical abuse. Shelly A. filed a criminal case against her employers which has yet to reach an outcome.
They slap me in the face and kick me. They have a stick for you. If I make a small mistake they would hit parts of my body—back legs, back and head. Sir would slap or punch me in the face. If they come back from the mall and I am not finished they would beat me. They would say, “If you had done work then we won’t hit you.”
I had a hearing but it was postponed three times because the employer didn’t come the first time, I am not sure why it was postponed the second time. I don’t know when the next hearing is.
As told to researchers for Human Rights Watch