Alert over increasing teenage maids in Bahrain
Manama, June 24, 2014
Concerns that increasing numbers of foreign teenage girls are landing jobs as housemaids in Bahrain have prompted calls for tighter controls on manpower agencies.
It has emerged that two of five female domestic workers housed by a shelter in Bahrain in the past six months were 16-year-olds from Ethiopia, said a report in the Gulf Daily News (GDN), our sister publication.
The girls travelled to Bahrain alone on forged passports that state they are older than they really are, said Migrant Workers protection Society (MWPS) chairwoman Mariatta Dias.
They include Yusra Abajihad Abadidu, a 16-year-old who said she was made to work every day from 4am to 11pm.
Her passport states she is 22, but she claims she didn't know it had been forged.
"The other girl was also 16 and somehow we managed to send her home last month, " said Dias.
"These are the cases that came to light, but we don't know how many more are out there that we are unaware of.
"We could make out from their looks that they are not in their twenties as stated in their passports and, when talking to them in person, we were told they are only in their teens."
Dias is now urging the LMRA to establish a separate unit to monitor manpower agents and handle such cases.
Yusra's case was referred to the MWPS by police after her employer reported her to authorities for allegedly attempting suicide.
She came here six months ago after her friend landed similar work in Saudi Arabia.
"Her friend was supporting her family with her earnings and, seeing this, though not from a very poor background Yusra desired to work in a foreign country to help her family and her parents yielded to her wish," MWPS action committee head and Ethiopian community leader Esky Dubois told the GDN.
However, she said the teenager denied attempting to slash her own wrists as her employer claimed.
"This is the case registered against her by her sponsor, but the girl denies it," said Dubois.
"We don't see any marks on her wrists. Moreover, we learnt that she wants to go home before Ramadan and had expressed this desire to her sponsor.
"They didn't agree to it, but Yusra was adamant and was handed over to the police."
Yusra claimed she worked for two households for 19 hours a day.
"Apparently, she was also beaten by the woman of household," said Dubois.
Within three months of her arrival she allegedly told her agent she wanted to go home, but the employer allegedly refused and insisted that she complete her contract period.
Manpower agencies receive payment for supplying housemaids, but after three months, often refuse to return money if the employer is unhappy.
"Now the case is going on and we need the sponsor or the agent to get her (Yusra) the ticket back home," added Dubois.
Yusra told the GDN through a translator that her parents paid money to an agent in her hometown to secure work in Bahrain.
She said she was supposed to work in Saudi Arabia, but an agent there refused and she had to wait for three months in Addis Ababa before being found work in Bahrain. - TradeArabia News Service