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Last Updated: Friday, 16 November 2007, 09:53 GMT
Reader's views: Gulf maid abuse
We received many emails from readers of a report published on the BBC News website about the abuse of foreign maids in the Gulf states. We spoke to some of those who emailed in from the region.

Read the original report:


Sharla Musabih
Sharla says her experience of the UAE authorities is positive

I run the City of Hope, which is a shelter for battered women. We've dealt with about 400 victims in the past six months.

I think the United Arab Emirate is really trying to improve the situation for housemaids.

They are working with Sri Lanka and the Philippines to crack down on the problems.

Currently, the biggest issue is with Ethiopians. Traffickers are going to the most remote villages in Ethiopia and tricking these women into coming here.

Their families pay the traffickers up to a thousand dollars to send them to work in Dubai.

They then put them in these villas. The women are completely illiterate, completely overwhelmed and they can't cope, so they run away.

We sent more than a hundred victims back to Ethiopia in July and August alone.

I have had a positive experience with the authorities here, although at a lower level I go through a lot of harassment.

If you're any type of victim, your first point of contact is with the lower level police, which is not fun.


I work as a recruitment agent in Saudi Arabia, finding domestic servants for Saudi nationals. I place mainly Sri Lankans and Indonesians.

To be honest, I advise people not to seek employment in Gulf countries - especially women - as they have to work 16-18 hour days and the labour laws exist on paper only.

The woman of the house had severely burned their arms with an iron

One or two house maids report to the office every day complaining about ill treatment.

They complain about not being paid, not being allowed to contact their family, not being given proper food, long hours and sexual abuse from their employers.

I cannot forget the two maids who reported here after escaping their sponsor [employer]. The woman of the house had severely burned their arms with an iron.

We handed the case over to the police - but nothing happened because the employer's relative was a high ranking police officer.

The whole case turned against me when the employers accused me of teaching the maids to complain.

They then intimidated the women into writing letters saying they had burnt themselves so they could go home to Sri Lanka.

If we discover clients are treating maids badly we blacklist them - and we have blacklisted many.


A Saudi man views Riyadh skyline

With the huge numbers of Sri Lankans working in Saudi Arabia, you are bound to get some bad experiences but I assure you, these are not the norm.

I have personally yet to see someone who was abused - but I have read stories about it, so I know it happens. It's horrible. It shouldn't be allowed.

Those responsible are dealt with by the police and the judicial authorities.

I saw the picture of the burnt woman in your article. I know people who work in hospitals - if they saw something like that they would report it to the police.

I employ a Sri Lankan driver and some of my work colleagues are Sri Lankans. We get along fine.

I do get fed up with people bashing the Gulf States. The Gulf is a more closed society than Britain, it's just the way it is.

The system of paying people different amounts according to their nationality was actually started by the American oil companies here in the 1920s.

The current system is remnant of that. As people are guest workers, not immigrants, their pay is based on the cost of living in their countries of origin.


I often treat household help brought to the clinic by their sponsors [employers].

They usually start by complaining of routine physical ailments, but after a little gentle questioning, one by one they talk about being abused sexually by the men in the family.

Getting beaten and working 18 hours a day is almost routine.

I am a Bengali-speaking Indian, so the Bangladeshi maids speak quite personally to me.

There is no way we can do anything about it. Saudi Arabia is the most starkly racist place you can have.

If an expat is involved in an accident with a Saudi, the Saudi can never be wrong.

My salary is 3,500 Saudi Reals a month. A Saudi doing the same job gets more than double that.

My employer - an illiterate Saudi businessman - holds my passport.

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