Thursday, September 15, 2011

Morocco must investigate Saudi "maid-trade"

Back in early September, the recruitment committee of the Council of Saudi Chambers of Commerce and Industry announced that recruitment companies would be established and will be licensed to bring in housemaids from Morocco, East Asia and South Africa. The move has caused outrage in unusual places. Ibn Warraq reports for The View from Fez.

The reason for this recruitment move, according to a Saudi chamber official, was that they were turning to Morocco and other countries to get its domestic workers following a dispute with the Philippines and Indonesia, the largest suppliers of housemaids to the Gulf countries. The dispute has centred on pay and conditions, but Indonesia had earlier this year also criticised the Saudi government for beheading an Indonesian maid. Of the 1.2 million Indonesians working in Saudi Arabia, over 70% are domestic helpers.

The ban on maids from Indonesia and the Philippines hit Saudi households hard, causing many to resort to hiring illegal maids over Ramadan. The Saudis are reliant on foreign workers to perform their household tasks for them and very few Saudi women will work in such menial positions despite high unemployment, as they would be looked down on by other Saudis.

The ban came into effect following the two countries attempts to introduce regulations for the work conditions of their nationals. Trade Arabia said both countries demanded better working conditions for their employees. Saudi walked away from the negotiations abruptly and decided to look for domestic employees from countries such as Morocco who they perceive as not as concerned about imposing regulations to protect their workers. It also became clear that lower rates of pay could be offered to other nationals.

Right from the beginning the scheme ran into problems in respect to recruiting maids from Morocco. The recruitment committee said that the immediate employment of Moroccan maids could prove an issue as there were no official recruitment offices in Morocco to process the papers of prospective domestic helps. It was suggested that there could be a way around the problem with Saudi citizens being given work visas to bring housemaids from Morocco on their own.

The whole issue of Saudi maids has been at the centre of international protests for years, especially in regard to exploitation, sexual harrassment and torturing of foreign housemaids. The notion that indvidual Saudi's could fly to Morocco and find a young woman and take her back to Saudi, is truly worrying and will, no doubt, offend our readers.

The chairman of the Council of Saudi Chambers of Commerce and Industry, warned Saudi citizens against contacting any offices claiming to be able to send housemaids from Morocco to the Kingdom. "They are all fake. You should not heed the false claims of these fake offices." he warned prospective employers.

The spokesman of the Labor Ministry, Hattab Al-Anzi, said the recruitment offices would grant citizens work visas for housemaids from Morocco. "It is now the responsibility of the citizen to look for authorized private recruitment offices to bring workers from Morocco," he said.

Then, suddenly, the plan to import maids from Morocco ran into even more problems. Those fighting to stop the "maid-trade" got support from an umlikely source - Saudi women. They objected to the importing of Moroccan girls, not because they didn't think they would work hard, or that they were against the exploitation of young foreign women. No - it was because they thought the Moroccan women were too beautiful. At first it sounded like a sick joke, but the Saudi women were serious.

"Many Saudi woman have objected to plans to import domestic workers from Morocco…they say the Moroccan women are beautiful and this will cause continuous anxiety and concern in Saudi families,” - 'Sharq' Daily

It is a relatively rare for the voices of Saudi women to be raised in protest. This year there have been notable exceptions as some women protested for the right to drive, whilst others demanded the right to vote. Now they have another common cause - to ban female domestic maids from Morocco. It started slowly, but over a few days the protests grew to the point where the Saudi women innundated the government with complaints that Moroccan women are just too beautiful and may lure their husbands away. According to the website Emirates 24 the Shura Council was “deluged by demands from Saudi women”

"Moroccan women are so attractive that their husbands could easily fall for them…others said Moroccans are good at magic and sorcery and that this could enable them to lure their husbands.” - 'Sharq' Daily
Saudi women protest against Moroccan maids

If the women of Saudi Arabia fail to stop this "maid-trade" then it is imperative that the Moroccan government scrutinise the contracts and conditions of every maid taken to Saudi. They should also take steps to educate Saudi women to understand that while Moroccan women may be beautiful, they are not dangerous.


Akram said...

Oum said...

Jeez... I though slavery time was over !! A little respect to this profession and to these women ! Good article. I think that we need strong regulations even in Morocco ...