Wednesday, 30 April 2008

Workers without Workers’ Rights


On the occsation of the International Labour Day , CARAM Asia urges the governments of both origin and destination countries to extend key labour protections to domestic workers and recognise domestic work as work.
Foreign domestic workers (FDWs) represent the most vulnerable category of workers. Being excluded from legally protected occupations, women domestic workers are isolated from mainstream labour, social and health protection laws and policies. This means domestic workers do not enjoy the minimum standards of employment that other workers do, such as a weekly day off, standard working hours, compensation for workplace injury and a minimum wage. The lack of legal protection for FDWs leads to numerous human rights violations resulting in a serious toll on their health and wellbeing. This violation of workers’ rights to adequate rest hours, appropriate working conditions, and a work environment free of abuse directly contribute to their poor state of health. The extreme cases of workplace hazards to which FDWs are exposed during their employment are evident in the growing incidences of death from workplace accidents or suicide. These abuses must be halted.
The majority of FDWs leave home in their prime age of reproduction. Hindered by language barriers and a lack of information and awareness on sexual and reproductive health issues, FDWs are vulnerable to communicable diseases, including HIV and other sexually transmitted infections. This lack of awareness, as well as personal power, to pursue safe sex leads to ill health and an increased risk of sexual violence.
FDWs are confined to their employer’s household and not being able to access to health services should they face abuse. The home has been characterized as a sanctuary for women’s human rights violators as home/domestic workers are isolated from public scrutiny and abuses are done with impunity. Unless the home is recognized as a workplace and those employed within are protected in terms of their labour and human rights, the problem will continue.
FDWs contribute to the wellbeing of their family through remittances and by providing labour to nurture the family of their employers. Therefore, their social reproductive role contributes to the sustainability of economies in both home and destination countries. However, most destination countries’ social security schemes, insurance for workplace injury, and access to employment provident funds, exclude them from social protection. In many countries, domestic workers are considered “servants” in the Employment Act and by default domestic workers are not granted their labour rights.
It is the responsibility of both source and destination countries to ensure the fundamental labour and health rights of domestic workers are guaranteed. The violation of FDWs rights occurs at all stages of the migration process. Countless cases and numerous forms of violation happen at the hands of recruitment agencies that must be subjected to prosecution and scrutiny by governments to ensure that abuse will stop. Also, it is essential that the rights of FDWs to redress must be recognised and that her right to stay and work during the time of a pending case must be ensured. Otherwise, her right to redress is only on paper but not followed in practice. An equally significant matter is the need for States to develop a policy and invest in programs for reintegration, skill training, and financial saving for returnee FDWs so they will not have to migrate time and again. Governments have to ensure that migration for employment as domestic workers must become a choice, not because of the lack of option.
On Labour Day, CARAM Asia reaffirms its commitment to work towards reclaiming the rights of FDWs while calling on the governments involved in the migration process to:
· Recognise domestic work as socio-economic activity by enacting labour laws to protect domestic workers or by amending labour laws that do not protect their rights,
· Adopt specific policies to provide FDWs’ access to health care services and social security,
· Ensure that FDWs enjoy the universal right to free association and are legally permitted to join unions like workers from other sectors,
· Halt mandatory health screening of migrants that lead to deportation,
· Abolish the employer sponsored visa system for domestic workers that leads to an unregulated work place, and
· Develop enforcement mechanisms for States and non state actors who violate FDWs’ rights.

'Battle not won' for rest days


THEY are often seen as hired help to be squeezed for their wages' worth — but foreign domestic workers are themselves parents or children of families back home, seeking a better life by working here.
That is the message three civil societies hope to communicate to young people here, so that they will see in a different light the maids caring for their needs, sometimes without any time off.
"We are going to go to schools and we will ask them to think about the auntie who brings them to school, who cooks and cleans for them, whether she has any siblings or children," said United Nations Development Fund for Women (Unifem) Singapore president Saleemah Ismail. "We want the schoolchildren to think about them as human beings who deserve rest too."
Such school talks are one of the ways in which Unifem, along with Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2) and Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics (Home), hope to change the way Singaporeans view the issue of giving the 170,000 foreign domestic workers here a rest day from their labours.
Joining forces for the first time, the three non-governmental organisations will roll out a campaign from tomorrow.
Since the introduction of the standard maid employment contract by industry accreditation bodies, there has been a perception that "the battle has been won", said TWC2 president John Gee. "People said, we don't need to campaign anymore," he said at a media briefing yesterday. "But we are not seeing the radical transformation that we were expecting with the contract."
Citing figures from Today's recent poll of 50 employers — which showed 40 per cent of them did not give their maids any rest days — Ms Ismail felt that more public education was needed to clarify employers' misconceptions about rest days. The campaign also features a website, a one-stop resource featuring advice on rest days and activities that maids can take part in on their days off.
Home executive director Jolovan Wham said while most Singaporeans were clear about their feelings regarding maid abuse, they were less vocal about rest days. "They don't view it as very important, and we want to encourage people to speak up," he said.
One way the public can do so is by putting their names on an online supporter list for rest days for maids.
But are such moves enough — given that there have been similar efforts in the past? Ms Ismail said this first-time three-way collaboration "might have more impact".
"It's too early to tell whether it's enough. It will take partnership between all parties for it to really happen," she added.
Indeed, throughout the year, the three groups will engage employment agencies in dialogue to help promote better practices — such as having agents recommend to employers that they give their maids a day off.
Mr Gee said: "They are the first point of contact by employers and are seen as an authority, so their practices are very important. We hope to address what holds them back from doing so."
In a letter to Today published on Monday, Indonesian maid Warminingsih pointed out that contracts are drawn up in English, which many maids from her country do not understand. "If agencies insist that employers give a day off to their maids, that will help us," she wrote.
In a statement, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) said the campaign was "in line with MOM's effort to ensure that foreign domestic workers are accorded adequate rest. MOM is committed to ensuring that the interests and welfare of all foreign workers, including foreign domestic workers, are safeguarded while working in Singapore".

April 30, 2008
Civic groups campaign for maids' day-off
By Keith Lin
CIVIL society groups are renewing efforts to get employers of maids to give them at least one day off each month.
The groups are embarking on a year-long publicity campaign calling on employers to give the estimated 180,000 maids here their days of rest.
The joint campaign by three non-governmental organisations - the National Committee for the United Nations Development Fund for Women (Unifem) Singapore, Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2) and the Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics (Home) - will kick off tomorrow with the launch of the website
This will feature suggestions on how employers can make lifestyle adjustments so that their maids can get time off and list enrichment courses that such workers can take up on their rest days.
Other activities planned for the year: dialogues with students, and media advertisements to raise public awareness.
Said Unifem Singapore president Saleemah Ismail: 'Over time, we hope that it will become second nature for employers to give their maids rest days, just like what they enjoy at their own workplaces.'
Foreign domestic workers here are excluded from Singapore's Employment Act, which stipulates minimum days off and maximum weekly working hours.
They are, however, covered under Work Permit regulations that require all employers to look after their workers' well-being, including providing them with proper housing and adequate rest.
The current campaign marks the first time civil society groups are collaborating on this issue.
TWC2 has been championing the cause since 2003. Then known as The Working Committee 2, it sent a report to the Manpower Ministry advocating, among other things, legislation requiring employers to give their maids at least two days off every month.
The ministry has, however, eschewed legislation, preferring a reconciliatory to a litigious approach.
In 2006, the Association of Employment Agencies and CaseTrust, the arm of the Consumers Association of Singapore (Case) that accredits maid agencies, came out with a standard maid employment contract that stipulates a compulsory day off every month or cash in lieu.
The three NGOs are, however, against the offer of cash in lieu, arguing that days off are a basic right.
They add that despite the contracts, reports of maids being denied sufficient rest continue to surface.
The Indonesian Embassy here said it receives around 30 phone calls daily from maids complaining that they do not get a day off - roughly the same number as before the standard contracts were implemented.
Said Mr Arsi Juga, the embassy's Third Secretary for consular affairs who handles maid-related issues: 'Many domestic workers remain unaware that they have the right to ask for a day off or cash in lieu. Some are simply too afraid to ask.'
A spokesman for the Manpower Ministry said the campaign is 'in line' with its own efforts to ensure that foreign domestic workers get adequate rest.
Over the years, the ministry has taken steps to enhance the protection and support of maids. The minimum age for maids has been raised from 18 to 23, and first-time employers must now attend a course on how to treat maids.
'We are committed to ensuring that the interests and welfare of all foreign workers, including foreign domestic workers, are safeguarded while they are working in Singapore,' the spokesman said.
Figures from the Manpower Ministry indicate that only four in 10,000 maids here have reported abuse of any sort by their employers.
Mr John Gee of TWC2 said he detected a 'certain level of wariness' on the part of the Government in dealing with the day-off issue, even though the latter dealt with maid abuse cases very efficiently.
Employer resistance could explain why it was against legislating days off, he said.
IT engineer Jason Chua is one such employer. He makes it a point to give his Filipino maid of three years her days off but wants to retain flexibility in doing so.
Said the 38-year-old, who lives with his wife and ailing mother in a four-room flat in Bedok: 'My maid knows my mother's daily needs very well, so we need her around often. But whenever we have time on weekends, she is free to go.'

Tuesday, 29 April 2008

New Deal For Sri Lankan Domestic Help

By Feizal SamathKUWAIT, Apr 28 (IPS) -

Recruiters for Sri Lankan housemaids in Kuwaiti homes, under fire for a host of problems faced by the domestic workers, have agreed to accept a greater measure of responsibility.More than 200 agents based in Colombo and Kuwait met at a hotel here last week and signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that binds agents from both countries to protect domestic workers. For the first time, the agents were not passing the buck to the governments or the state-owned Sri Lanka Foreign Employment Bureau -- as they normally do when housemaids are in trouble. In what many agree is a landmark move for the migrant worker industry in Sri Lanka, the two groups agreed that the crisis plaguing the industry where housemaids end up suffering harassment, rape, abuse, assault and non-payment of wages at the hands of employers was partly their fault. "We have to stop blaming others and take responsibility for this state of affairs. These things wouldn't have happened if we -- on both sides of the trade -- had proper contracts, proper selection of workers, etc.," noted Suraj Dandeniya, president of the Association of Licensed Foreign Employment Agents of Sri Lanka (ALFEA). Zain Milhan, president of the Sri Lanka Manpower Welfare Association of Kuwait (SLMWAK) agreed. "How do we get a good name? How do we become responsible, do good business? Are we concerned only about commissions and making money? Shouldn't we run a good business, a good trade?" SLMWAK represents some 90 percent of the foreign employment business in Kuwait -- Sri Lanka's second largest labour-generating market after Saudi Arabia -- and accounting for nearly 200,000 jobs. The bulk of the workers are housemaids. ALFEA is the only government recognised association representing 800 job agents in Sri Lanka. There is added significance to the agreement because Sri Lankan nationals dominate the foreign employment market in this country. Many of the job agency businesses, in which Kuwaitis are owners as per local rules, are managed by Sri Lankans. Incidentally, quite a few are housemaids-turned-managers. These agencies bring workers from many countries, including Sri Lanka, Indonesia, India, Bangladesh and the Philippines. There are more than 1.4 million Sri Lankan workers across the Middle East and many, housemaids in particular, have faced problems. to Sri Lanka's ambassador in Kuwait S.A.C.M. Zuhyle told IPS that often unsuitable people are recruited. Of the 1,057 housemaids sent home last year from Kuwait, nearly 800 cases had failed medical tests, were mentally unfit, were pregnant on arrival, or had infants at home. "They should never have been selected in the first place," Zuhyle said, adding that the majority of the problems would be eliminated if proper selections are made. A Kuwaiti agent said in one case a woman gave birth, just two days after arriving from Colombo. Another case, reported in the Colombo newspapers earlier this month, was of a maid who had given birth to a baby later found dead inside a washing machine. "It was revealed that the housemaid was five months pregnant when she came here," said Ranmalee (one name) who helps manage a Kuwaiti job agency. "Quite a few problems are also because the housemaids are not familiar with what to expect here in terms of work, environment etc.," Ranmalee said, illustrating how other Sri Lankans encourage housemaids to run away from their first employer as there is more lucrative freelance work outside. When that happens, the woman leaves behind her passport and visa documents, making it difficult for her to return home or find another legitimate job. At the Kuwaiti discussions it was revealed that there is a huge racket in medical certificates and very often, housemaids who have failed their medical examination, turn up in Kuwait with a bogus certificate. Underage workers are another problem. Rizana Nafeek, a 20-year-old migrant worker, facing a death sentence in Saudi Arabia for allegedly 'intentionally' killing a four-month-old infant while she was giving it a midday bottle feed in May 2005. Nafeek was just 17 when she first arrived in Saudi Arabia, although her age was mentioned as 23 in the passport. She told a judge at the trial that her date of birth had been falsified by the employment agency. Agents from both sides share the blame for the state of affairs. Often job agents -- in a hurry to make money -- do away with the basic role of screening applicants and making sure they are suitable in terms of capacity to work long hours and medically fit. Both Dandeniya and Milhan, heading the respective agents' associations in Sri Lanka and Kuwait, agree that there are 'bad' eggs amongst agents just like "any other profession". Milhan said there is a plan to set up a computerised network system which would blacklist bad sponsors or employers who have created problems for housemaids. "Through this all our members can check when a sponsor seeks a housemaid,'' he told IPS. On the Colombo side, ALFEA is working on ensuring that proper screening is done before housemaids are sent abroad and there is less corruption in issuing medical certificates or passports with bogus age. The new attitude among recruiting agents may have been prompted Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse comments recently about the government contemplating a ban on Sri Lankan females working as housemaids overseas due to the enormous social problems they leave behind, especially those concerning their young children. "If that (a ban) happens we are all finished," said one agent here. "What happens then to the 600,000 to 700,000 housemaids who are already employed in the Middle East? Who will give them jobs?" he asked. Remittances from Sri Lankan workers represent the largest source of foreign exchange for this South Asian island country after garment exports.

Thursday, 17 April 2008

With another OFW in Kuwait death row

Press Release16 April 2008 For reference: Ramon Bultron
Managing Director Tel. No.: (852) 94773141
With another OFW in Kuwait death rowMigrant group scores "failure" of RP gov't protection and servicesWith the successive cases of death sentences on OFWs and the exposes on abuses and maltreatment that Filipina domestic workers in Kuwait suffer from, it has become even more evident that the Philippine government's services and protection to its nationals there are miserable failures. This was the statement of Ramon Bultron, managing director of the HK-based regional group Asia Pacific Mission for Migrants (APMM) following the news that another OFW, Jakatia Pawa, has been sentenced to death for allegedly killing her employer's 21-year old daughter. Pawa's sentence followed from the heels of the Kuwait Supreme Court's upholding of the death sentence to another OFW, May Vecina. "Their nationals are put in the gallows one after another. What is the government doing to assist them and even more importantly, what actions are done to address the abusive conditions these OFWs are made to suffer from prior to their alleged crimes?" Bultron remarked. Bultron relayed that there have been reports of serious violations of rights of Filipino migrant workers in Kuwait and the lackluster protection and assistance that the Philippine government gives to the distressed migrant workers. According to the group, the Philippine Embassy in Kuwait itself admitted that 4,225 of its nationals, mostly domestic workers escaped from their employers in 2006. Supposedly this was reduced to 3,000 in 2007. This was due to physical, mental, and sexual abuse; non-payment and/or delay of salaries; and other abuses. The Assistance to Nationals section, on the other hand, reported that there were 98 rape cases in 2006. "A study by the Social Work Society of Kuwait among domestic helpers revealed that about 47% of them experience verbal abuse, are overworked, given insufficient time to sleep. Treated badly, beaten up, accused of stealing and beaten by sons of their employer. Aside from this, only about 25% of them get a weekly day off from work," Bultron said.The group said that some placement agencies, including those based in Kuwait, also disallow those working in homes to have the right to have a cell phone. It is alleged that even Escalani, the biggest agency in Kuwait strip searches domestic helpers to find if they have sim cards in their possession. Bultron also reported that legitimate complaints of domestic helpers even when they are raped are rendered null and void if they are charged by their employers with absconding and/or theft. They can be taken from the POLO shelter and be detained for a maximum of seven months. "It is significant to note that the likes of Marilou Ranario, whose sentence was commuted to life imprisonment after intense pressure was exerted by OFWs around the world, and May Vecina have also undergone abuses. Sadly though, the response of the Philippine government to the situation of their nationals remain nil or at best, minimal," he lamented. Bultron cited the cases of Filipino workers at Kuwait & Gulf Link Transport Co. and at Al Messa Medicare Co. whom he said were not sufficiently assisted by the Philippine Embassy in Kuwait with their complaints. "Workers at KGL were even discouraged by government officials from complaining. Embassy officials also agreed with the management of Al Essa to designate leaders of the protesting workers there as agitators for allegedly 'disturbing other employees'. It took significant public attention to their plight before the government even addressed their complaints," he added. Finally, Bultron reiterated the demand from different OFW groups in the Philippines and in other countries for the Philippine government to act swiftly and appeal for the life of Vecina and Pawa. "While we appeal for His Highness, the Amir of Kuwait, to spare the lives of Vecina and Pawa, we also call on to the government to provide full, swift and unconditional assistance to Vecina and Pawa as well as the other OFWs in Kuwait who are languishing in jails. Moreso, it must get its act together to curb the abuses suffered by their nationals and improve their protection and services to distressed Filipino migrants," he concluded.

Tuesday, 15 April 2008

pattaya Daily News:

The recent death of the 54 Burmese migrants in a container in Ranong, on April 10 represents, but the tip of the iceberg. Human rights lawyers and labour rights activists in Thailand say that violence against Burmese migrant workers is on the increase. They accuse Thai authorities of doing too little to protect Burmese working in Thailand. The Migrant Worker Group, a coalition of NGOs, cited at least documented 10 cases in which more than 100 people had died being transported to Thailand in the past year. Since the beginning of 2008, scores of Rohingya Muslims from Burma have drowned in the Andaman Sea in an attempt to reach Southern Thailand, However, rather than help, Thai PM Samak Sundaravej has recently announced he will detain them on a deserted island to deter more arrivals. "These preventable deaths are the tragic result of people fleeing repression and poverty in Burma, only to find abuse and exploitation in Thailand. Thai policies denying migrants basic rights contribute to such tragedies and urgently need to be revised or scrapped. These deaths put Thai authorities squarely on notice that reform cannot wait," said Elaine Pearson, Deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch.Over 2 million Burmese migrants are estimated to be working in Thailand, less than 500,000 of them legally. Yet the numbers rise steadily—the lure of jobs and the hope of a better life outweighs all the uncertainty and threat of physical danger, murder and exploitation that these people suffer. Nearly 20,000 registered Burmese migrant workers work in the Mae Sot area of Thailand's Tak border province with Myanmar, where cases of abuse are particularly high. Moe Swe, head of the Yaung Chi Oo Workers Association in Mae Sot, said because migrant workers were reluctant to get involved with the police, many incidents go unreported. Unregistered migrants fear deportation if they complain to the authorities800 cases of abuse, including murder and rape, were reported to the Seafarers Union of Burma from mid-2006 to November 2007. Union member Ko Ko Aung maintained 30% of the reported cases involved murder. It appears some Thai employers resort to murder, rather than pay their migrant workers. Adults are not the only victims of Burma's instability, children are also represented. Here estimates are vague, there being no official statistics, but NGOs cite 20,000 as a generally accepted figure. The economic crisis and instability in Burma is driving hordes of Burmese children into hard labour, begging and the sex trade, claims exiled Burmese rights groups. Paw Ray, the chairperson of the BMWEC, which operates nearly 50 schools for children of Burmese migrant workers in Mae Sot maintains "there's no security and no protection for migrant workers or their children. Neither the authorities nor employers can give them security." With many Thais avoiding mundane, dirty and dangerous work in agriculture, fishing and construction, and Myanmar's generals refusing to improve their crippled economy, Thai officials say the influx of cheap, migrant labour will continue.However, most Thais are unaware of the positive contributions that migrant workers make for Thailand. Estimates of their contributions amount to Bt370 billion, or about 6.2 per cent of Thailand's GDP and the average unskilled migrant earns between 50 and 80% of the average unskilled Thai. Yet it appears as if the Thai political leaders, captains of industry and ordinary citizens - who most benefit directly or indirectly from migrant labour - have conspired to suppress such information. Those who benefit most in the absence of any genuine attempt to regulate the inflow of migrants from Burma, Cambodia and Laos are unscrupulous Thai employers bent on exploiting labour to maximise profits. And Thailand continues to treat these people with utter contempt and prejudice. In fact, it appears the more Thailand comes to depend on migrant workers for its economic and social well-being, the worse the Thai people treat them. Successive governments, including the outgoing Surayud government, have been complicit in the systematic exploitation of migrants, for failure to secure borders, and lax enforcement of laws relating to immigrants and their employers. Human Rights Watch maintains "If Thailand's labour laws were followed across the board, fewer migrants would resort to illegal crossings or be susceptible to trafficking, and could travel and work with basic rights under law." They continue"It's time for the Thai and Burmese governments to implement transparent measures that protect the lives and basic rights of migrant workers." News Type : World news

Monday, 14 April 2008

Suffering in Silence: Domestic Workers Need Legal Protection
BCHR calls for domestic workers to be covered by Labour Law and given weekly holidayUrges unions and women's groups to get involved
Bahrain Center for Human Rights2 Jan 2007Ref: 07010200
Migrant domestic workers in the Gulf countries are among the most vulnerable sections of the society. As both females and migrants, often with very little formal education, domestic workers are the most in need of protection by the State. On the contrary, in the Gulf, domestic workers have been specifically excluded from the purview of the Labour Law, and therefore any legal rights as workers. In effect, they work as the property of their employers with no mechanism to ensure they are provided a safe workplace and are not being abused.
The Bahrain Center for Human Rights therefore calls upon the governments of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) to amend their Labour Laws such that domestic workers are included under its scope. The BCHR furthers calls on the authorities and civil societies to take immediate steps to require that employers give domestic workers at least one day off from work each week.
This is in line with Article 25 of the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families, which states that:
"Migrant domestic workers shall enjoy treatment not less favourable than that which applies to citizen of the country of employment in respect of remuneration and other conditions of work, such as overtime, hours of work, weekly day off, holidays with pay, safety, health, termination of the employment relationship and any other conditions of work which, according to national labour law and practice, are covered by these terms."
Abuse of domestic workers too frequent
Article 10 of the International Convention states that "No migrant worker or member of his or her family shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment". Article 16 adds that they "shall be entitled to effective protection by the State against violence, physical injury, threats and intimidation, whether by public officials or by private individuals, groups or institutions."
However, in Bahrain and the Gulf, every week, the local media reports on cases of domestic workers, women from South and Southeast Asia, who have been abused and denied basic rights. There are horrific tales of women who have run away from their local employer's homes in search of help. The complaints range from being overworked or not receiving wages, to being beaten or raped.[1]
"With the shocking and huge number of cases that we read in the daily newspapers, we do not see any local citizens brought to justice for committing such abusive acts", BCHR Vice-president Nabeel Rajab said."The cases that make it to the media, however, are just a fraction of the actual cases of domestic worker abuse in the region. Most of the victims suffer in silence," he said.
Abused domestic workers frequently fall victim to clinical depression, and reports of workers who try to escape the suffering by attempting to commit suicide are very common. In April 2006, in the the space of just a month, three housemaids attempted suicide at the Philippine Embassy's shelter for distressed workers [2]. According the US State Department's 2005 Report on Human Rights Practices in Bahrain, "between 30 to 40 percent of the attempted suicide cases handled by the government's psychiatric hospitals were foreign maids" [3].
Courts fail to provide protection
If an abused domestic worker is lucky, her sponsor may eventually put her on a plane back to her home country, without any compensation for the suffering. Such was the case of Indian housemaid P. P. Ayesha in 2006, who was kept in virtual slavery for three months without pay and beaten on separate occasions by a recruitment agency employee and two Bahraini sponsors.[4]
Unfortunately, most abused domestic workers agree to go back home without seeking justice because they have no other choice. A legal case in Bahraini courts would be long and drawn out, so this is rarely an option -- unemployed migrant workers would have no alternate means to support themselves during the duration of a trial, let alone pay for legal expenses. Furthermore, the lack of independence of the judiciary means that employers and sponsors can use their social status to influence court decisions in their favour.

Anita Verma, abused Indian domestic workerThere is only one known case of domestic worker abuse in Bahrain in which the courts have convicted the employer. In this case, the employer was an Indian national – the guilty verdict would have been very unlikely had she been a Bahraini national. The victim, Anita Devi Verma, suffered multiple head wounds, bruises and burns before being saved by BCHR workers. Despite the fact that her employer admitted to the crime, it took two years for the court to reach a verdict. The employer was sentenced to a mere three months in jail and ordered to pay Ms. Verma a paltry sum of BD500 (US$1,326) in compensation.[5]
This failure of the judicial system to protect domestic workers contravenes Article 18 of the International Convention, which states that: "Migrant workers and members of their families shall have the right to equality with nationals of the State concerned before the courts and tribunals. In the determination of any criminal charge against them or of their rights and obligations in a suit of law, they shall be entitled to a fair and public hearing by a competent, independent and impartial tribunal established by law".
A day off is essential for communication and rest
In a region where both women's rights and migrant's right are compromised, domestic workers in the Gulf are immediately at a high risk of having their rights violated. This is compounded by the fact that for many of them, it is their first time away from their families and homes, and they are often unfamiliar with Arabic or English and local customs.
However, what puts domestic workers especially at risk is the fact that they work and live individually in the homes of their employers, isolated from the outside world. Without any protection from the Labour Law, the employers are free to prevent the workers from leaving the residence, or deny them from making telephone calls. This lack of contact with the outside world means that abused domestic workers are unable to seek help or advice from their peers, their embassies, or the police. It also contributes to the loneliness and depression that domestic workers very often suffer from.
As an immediate and minimum remedy, the BCHR calls on the government to require that all domestic workers are given at least one day off from work each week, when they should be allowed to leave the residence.
Unions and women's groups should give them a voice
Sadly, the plight of domestic workers has been ignored not only by the State, but also by civil societies in Bahrain and the Gulf; they have become invisible to society due to the social stigma attached to their status as low-income earning migrants.
The BCHR urges all labour unions and women's rights organizations to take a stand in defending the rights of female domestic workers. We request these civil societies to make the plight of domestic workers part of their organizational agenda, and allow them to participate in meetings and activities with a view to protecting their economic, social and cultural interests.
Domestic workers should be encouraged to become members of unions and womens organizations so that they can have access to a social support network that is otherwise denied to them. In particular, the civil societies should assist the domestic workers in organizing themselves so they can have a collective voice with which to defend themselves.
We urge the media and the embassies of sending countries to support us in the demand for one day off per week, and ask them to join us in renewing the demand for domestic workers to be included in the purview of the Labour Law.
[1] "The shattered dreams", Bahrain Tribune, 18 December 2006
[2] "Suicide bid by maid...", Gulf Daily News, 9 April 2006
[3] Country Reports on Human Rights Practices - 2005, US State Department, 8 March 2006
[4] "Assaulted maid flies home penniless", Gulf Daily News, 2 October 2006
[5] "Abused maid yearns to go home", Gulf Daily News, 1 July 2005, and "Woman jailed for abusing maid", Gulf Daily News, 27 June 2005
"Circumstances facing Migrant women (Domestic Workers) in the Gulf", Paper presented by BCHR Vice President Nabeel Rajab to the Annual Conference of the World Association of Non-Governmental Organizations, Bangkok, 25 - 28 September 2003
"Holding Back and Confiscating Passports of Migrant Workers and Forbidding Them from Traveling", BCHR, 26 September 2005
"Swept Under the Rug: Abuses Against Domestic Workers Around the World", Human Rights Watch, July 2006
"Death and the Maid: Work, Violence, and the Filipina in the International Labor Market", Dan Gatmaytan, Harvard Women's Law Journal, Spring 1997
เร่งบริษัทประกันจ่ายศพละ 3 หมื่น 5 คดี 54 คนงานพม่า ตายในรถห้องเย็น
โดย ไทยรัฐ วัน จันทร์ ที่ 14 เมษายน พ.ศ. 2551 11:28 น.

กรณีรถบรรทุกห้องเย็นลักลอบขนแรงงานต่างด้าวชาวพม่าอัดแน่นเต็มห้องเย็นเดินทางจากแพปลา ต.ปากน้ำ อ.เมืองระนอง ไปส่งที่ จ.พังงา และจ.ภูเก็ต ระหว่างทางระบบปรับอากาศห้องเย็นเกิดขัดข้องทำให้แรงงานพม่าขาดอากาศหายใจเสียชีวิต 54 ศพ และบาดเจ็บ 66 คน หลังเกิดเหตุตำรวจจับกุมเจ้าของรถห้องเย็นมรณะ พร้อมติดตามตัวคนขับมาดำเนินคดี ล่าสุดอัครราชทูตสหภาพพม่าประจำประเทศไทยเดินทางไปจ.ระนอง เพื่อสอบถามข้อเท็จจริงด้วยตัวเองนั้นต่อมาวันที่ 13 เม.ย. นางกาญจนาภา กี่หมัน ผวจ.ระนอง เปิดเผยถึงการช่วยเหลือแก่ญาติ แรงงานชาวพม่า ที่เสียชีวิตว่า ได้มอบหมายให้สำนักงานคณะกรรมการกำกับและส่งเสริมการประกอบธุรกิจประกันภัยจังหวัดระนอง ตรวจสอบรถห้องเย็นบรรทุกอาหารทะเลสดของห้างหุ้นส่วน จำกัด น.รุ่งเรืองทรัพย์คันก่อเหตุพบว่าได้ทำประกันภัยไว้กับบริษัทลิเบอร์ตี้ประกันภัย จำกัด ทั้งนี้ ตามพระราชบัญญัติผู้ประสบภัยจากรถ พ.ศ.2535 บริษัทผู้เอาประกันต้องจ่ายค่าเสียหายในเบื้องต้นกรณีเสียชีวิตรายละ 35,000 บาท และค่ารักษาพยาบาลตามที่จ่ายจริงรายละไม่เกิน 15,000 บาท แม้ว่าผู้ประสบภัยจะเป็นต่างด้าวก็ตามกฎหมายคุ้มครองเช่นเดียวกับคนไทยไม่มีข้อยกเว้น โดยต้องดำเนินการจ่ายค่าเสียหายดังกล่าวภายใน 7 วัน นับแต่เอกสารหลักฐานครบถ้วนนางกาญจนาภากล่าวว่า ขณะนี้สำนักงานคณะกรรมการกำกับและส่งเสริมการประกอบธุรกิจประกันภัยจังหวัดระนองได้เตรียมการช่วยเหลือไว้ 2 ทาง คือ 1.ประสานให้ บริษัทลิเบอร์ตี้ประกันภัย จำกัด ให้เตรียมการจ่ายค่าเสียหายเบื้องต้นแก่ทายาทผู้เสียชีวิต ในส่วนของค่ารักษาพยาบาลไม่สามารถขอรับได้เนื่องจากโรงพยาบาลระนองและโรงพยาบาลสุขสำราญ ไม่คิดค่าใช้จ่ายในการรักษาพยาบาล 2.ได้เตรียมการด้านอำนวยความสะดวกแก่ทายาทที่จะเดินทางมาขอรับค่าเสียหายเบื้องต้นจากบริษัทฯ โดยได้ตั้งคณะทำงานระดับจังหวัดขึ้นมาเพื่อทำหน้าที่ในการประสานอำนวยความสะดวกแก่ญาติผู้เสียชีวิตในการติดต่อกับบริษัทประกันภัยผู้สื่อข่าวถามว่าพม่าที่เสียชีวิตทั้งหมดลักลอบเข้าเมืองเดินทางมาจากเมืองต่างๆ ของพม่าไม่มีหลักฐานติดตัวจะตรวจสอบอย่างไร ผวจ.ระนองกล่าวว่า เรื่องนี้ทางจังหวัดจะตั้งคณะกรรมการระดับจังหวัดขึ้นมา 1 ชุดจากหลายๆ ฝ่าย โดยมอบหมายให้หน่วยประสานงานชายแดนไทย-พม่า ประจำพื้นที่ 6 จังหวัดระนอง เป็นศูนย์กลางในการประสานกับจังหวัดเกาะสองในด้านการแจ้งญาติผู้เสียชีวิตเพื่อร่วมกันตรวจสอบผู้ที่จะมาแสดงตัวว่าเป็นญาติของผู้ตายเป็นตัวจริงหรือไม่ จุดนี้อาจจะต้องพึ่งทางการพม่าด้วย ส่วนความคืบหน้าการติดตามจับกุมนายสุชล บุญปล้อง คนขับรถห้องเย็นมรณะนั้นเจ้าหน้าที่ตำรวจยังไม่สามารถจับกุมได้ แต่ตำรวจก็ได้ออกไล่ล่ากันตลอด 24 ชั่วโมง