x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

'Abused' maid faces a lifetime ban from working in the UAE

The former employer accused by the Filipina maid of hitting her has filed a complaint that she ran away.

DUBAI // A 35-year-old Filipina housemaid who left her job complaining of mistreatment is facing a lifetime ban on working in the UAE, after her former employer filed an abscondment case against her.

"It's not fair and we're trying to sort it out," said Yum Habana-Sabala, 42, the managing director of Destiny HR in Dubai. "She had bruises on her arms and chest and she claimed that her female employer slapped her three times."

Ms Sabala, who was in Nepal when the abuse is alleged to have happened in December, was seeking help from Filipino labour officials to approach the Dubai immigration authorities.

Ms Sabala said she would ask that the ban not be imposed. "If necessary, we will present a medical report and the photos showing her bruises."

Amilbahar Amilasan, the labour attache at the Philippine overseas labour office in Dubai, said they were looking into the reasons behind the absconding report filed by the employer.

"But we will be fair to both sides," he said. "We have to contact the employer to know why he filed it."

The maid, who is originally from Caloocan City, 5.47km from Manila, arrived in Dubai on August 31 last year. Last month, she complained that her employers hit her when she asked for her November salary and for a day off, according to Ms Sabala.

"They confiscated her mobile phone and she could not contact us," she said. "She sought help from a security guard at the building where she worked. He phoned me and we were able to rescue her."

Ms Sabala went to the Bur Dubai police station on December 18 to file a complaint against the maid's Lebanese employers for physical abuse. But police told her that the recruitment agency could not do that on behalf of the complainant.

The maid is presently at the Filipino Workers Resource Centre in Dubai. The shelter, run by Filipino labour and welfare officials, has been overwhelmed by more than 200 women, mostly housemaids, who fled their employer's homes after complaining of mistreatment, including unpaid salaries, long working hours, lack of food and sleep, and physical abuse. Although the maid wishes to first return to the Philippines, she is also open to returning to the UAE to work for a new employer.

"She wants to go home, but we're giving her an option to stay and work here," Ms Sabala said. "She can also leave the country and return later. But first we have to work on having the threat of a ban lifted."

This is the first abuse case that Destiny HR has handled since it opened in 2008, Ms Sabala said.

Over the past two years her agency has deployed 20 Filipina domestic workers to the UAE.

"We thoroughly screen the employers," she said. "The couple, who have a baby, live in an upscale apartment and are indeed well off. No one is perfect but we expect employers to treat their maids humanely."

rruiz@thenational.ae