SHARJAH // Inspectors from the Sharjah Department of Naturalisation and Residency say they have found 25 runaway maids living in a one-bedroom apartment. Furthermore, 39 maids who fled their jobs elsewhere in the emirates were found living illegally in Sharjah last month as part of ongoing inspections, said Col Dr Abdullah Ali Saeed bin Sahoo, department director. There are increasingly more runaway maids in the emirate, Mr bin Sahoo said, which is why the department is conducting raids. The campaign will continue until the end of the year, he said.
Among the 25 maids arrested in the same apartment, 15 were from Indonesia, nine from the Philippines and one from Sri Lanka. The department arrested 14 other maids, 13 Ethiopians and one Indian, who were living in the Abu Shagara, Buteena and Bu Daniq areas. The runaway maids would find work by giving their phone numbers to building watchmen, who would approach residents and ask if they were looking for maids, Mr bin Sahoo said.
Only nine of the maids arrested had Sharjah visas, he said, and others were from other emirates. "We are going through the right procedure to have all of them taken back to their country," he said. A senior official from the Sharjah operations room said police received a number of calls about runaway maids stealing from their part-time employers. Police warned residents that using part time maids was dangerous and illegal.
"We don't want to threaten residents not to report theft cases by these maids, but we want them to know that they are also doing something wrong to hire part-time maids that are mostly living illegally in the country," the official said. "Once the case is reported to us we shall also have to talk to the resident why he chose this illegal alternative." A number of residents in Sharjah believe recruitment agents are partly to blame because they offer a very short guarantee period.
One man, a lecturer at Sharjah University, who asked to be identified as Hakim, said he had used up to three maids in one year. "My wife had asked me to only bring Ethiopian maids because they were close to our African culture," he said. "Every three months, the maid would run away. I was so disturbed to go through the same bureaucracy and pay more fees for a new maid." He said getting a legal new maid always cost him up to Dh20,000 (US$5,400) including the salary deposit of Dh12,000, agents fees and visa and air ticket repayment.