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Last Updated: Wednesday, 30 January 2008, 12:53 GMT
'Abused lives' of Jordan's maids
By Crispin Thorold
BBC News, Amman

Filipino maids in Beirut
Filipino maids have already been restricted from jobs in Lebanon
An announcement has been pinned to the door of a refuge for Philippine maids in the Jordanian capital.

It blandly states that the "deployment of Filipino household workers is hereby temporarily suspended".

Inside, the reality of life for many Philippine domestic workers in Jordan soon becomes clear.

There are more than 150 women here who have fled their jobs.

"I was maltreated by my employer," said one, who like all the women that we met did not want to be named.

"My boss pulled me by my hair, she slapped me, she beat me, she pulled me crudely by my clothes and tried to put her slipper on my mouth."

Stories of physical abuse are common and some of the former maids say they have been raped.

Most of the women in the refuge have not been paid for months.

One girl, who came to Jordan when she was 19, says she is owed four years' salary.

Poor conditions

The maids travelled to Jordan with high hopes after recruitment drives by agents in the Philippines. They were promised good pay and a safe working environment.

I was allowed to take a bath once a week. I was only allowed to sleep by the washing machine
Philippine maid

Things began to go wrong for one of the maids when she landed in Jordan.

"[In the Philippines, the agents] told everyone that Jordan is a good country and that the employers are very good.

"So I was surprised when the agency manager fetched me at the airport. He told me my salary would be $150 (75) a month and that I would not be paid for my first three months here."

When the woman arrived at her new workplace she was made to clean several houses and to nurse two children.

"I was made to work more than an animal can," the former maid said.

"I started at 0600 and finally stopped at midnight. I was only allowed to eat once a day at 1200.

"I was only allowed to take a bath once a week, on Fridays. I was only allowed to sleep by the washing machine."

The Philippine government has become so concerned about the plight of some of the domestic workers in Jordan that it has announced that new workers would not be allowed to travel to the country.

"I received an order to stop the deployment of overseas Philippine workers to Jordan because of the growing number of Filipinos in distress there," Rosalinda Bladoz, the head of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration told a news conference in Manila.

Legal limbo

map

According to Jordanian government statistics, there are 70,000 foreign domestic workers in the country, 15,000 of them come from the Philippines.

The ban does not apply to workers returning to employers of "good standing" in Jordan.

Officials from the Jordanian Labour Ministry were reported by the Jordan Times to have said that they had not been told officially about the ruling.

Most of the women at the refuge are caught in a legal limbo.

They gave their passports to the middlemen who met them at the airport and in many cases their Jordanian residency documents have not been processed, so they are in the country illegally.

Several have been accused of stealing by their former employers.

All I want is to go back to my country and to return to my work
Filipino maid

Officials from the Philippine embassy and the Jordanian government are holding meetings to try to solve the problem.

Jordan is the fifth country to be put on to the banned list - the others are Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon and Nigeria.

A few women at the refuge are returning home. Two said their emotional goodbyes while we were there.

The rest can only wait for their embassy to try to resolve their cases. In the meantime they daydream about home and better times.

"All I want is to go back to my country and to return to my work," said one.

"I keep on praying. I keep on asking the Lord, please let me go back to the Philippines so that I can see my land again."

SEE ALSO
Philippine ban for Jordan 'abuse'
24 Jan 08 |  Middle East
Sri Lanka abuse 'rampant' in Gulf
14 Nov 07 |  South Asia
Abused maids tell of their ordeals
14 Mar 06 |  Asia-Pacific
Country profile: The Philippines
29 Nov 07 |  Country profiles
Country profile: Jordan
15 Jan 08 |  Country profiles

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