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Surge in fleeing maids blamed on economy

The Umm al Qaiwain Government has attributed the growing number of maids running away from their sponsors to the global economic crisis.

The Umm al Qaiwain Government has attributed the growing number of maids running away from their sponsors to the global economic crisis. "When the employer's family that had more than three meals a day start having one, a maid would say it's too much, there is no future here," said Sheikh Colonel Ibrahim Al Mualla, the head of the emirate's Naturalisation and Residency Department.

"Other maids are compelled by the increasing responsibilities from their home country. As their parents get laid off and they become the sole supporter of their families, they find that what they are earning is too little to support their families and look for opportunities." Sheikh Ibrahim said 174 maids were registered as having fled their sponsors in the emirate since the start of the year, up from almost 100 in the same period last year.

Not only maids are running away; 180 labourers are also registered as having fled their sponsors this year. Zakariya Hamid, a resident who has filed a case at the department against his runaway Ethiopian maid, said he believed she was still in the UAE, working illegally for families part time in Ajman or Sharjah. "Even when she was still with us, she would escape during the day when everyone is at work and leave our four-year-old boy sleeping and go and work part time and come back," he said.

"Unless the Government comes up with a law that punishes families that use part-time maids they did not sponsor, this problem will persist." Sheikh Ibrahim said that sponsorship of runaway maids was already prohibited by law. ykakande@thenational.ae

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