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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 20 September 2018

New prosecution unit for domestic workers 'will encourage victims to come forward'

Ophelia Almenario, labour attaché at the Philippines Embassy, said housemaids or others who have been mistreated or abused by their employers typically shy away from pursuing them in court

A house maid gathers food from a fridge while preparing lunch. On Wednesday, the Abu Dhabi Judicial Department announced it will be establishing a special prosecution unit dedicated to cases of domestic worker abuse. Philip Cheung / The National
A house maid gathers food from a fridge while preparing lunch. On Wednesday, the Abu Dhabi Judicial Department announced it will be establishing a special prosecution unit dedicated to cases of domestic worker abuse. Philip Cheung / The National

A new special prosecution unit to handle cases that involve abuse against domestic workers will encourage more victims to come forward and ensure they get the justice they deserve, according to one senior diplomat.

Ophelia Almenario, labour attaché at the Philippines Embassy, said housemaids or others who have been mistreated or abused by their employers typically shy away from pursuing them in court out of fear of landing in further trouble.

On Wednesday, the Abu Dhabi Judicial Department announced it will be establishing a special prosecution unit dedicated to such cases to ensure cases are handled quickly and adequately.

“Because most of them just want to go home to the Philippines because it takes a long time for prosecution,” she explained.

“I think workers will now be more motivated to go forward with their cases, if the time for their prosecution will be shortened, and we believe it will be now that there will be a special prosecution, maybe they will be encouraged to fight for their rights.”

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Read more:

New unit to prosecute cases of abuse against domestic workers

Domestic workers still face 'abuse and fraud' in the Middle East says leading UN body

National Editorial: Dedicated prosecution unit for domestic workers is a major milestone

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In general, she said the decree is good news as it will facilitate the resolution of domestic workers’ complaints.

She said the cases they often come across at the embassy involve unpaid salaries and breaches of contract, rather than maltreatment.

And previously, when they did receive complaints of abuse or maltreatment, such claims were not validated because they did not reach the court.

“It will be the courts that will decide, because both sides will be given the chance to be heard.”

The Minister of Human Resources and Emiratisation Nasser Al Hamli said the decree by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed, chairman of ADJD to establish this prosecution unit reflects how much respect the UAE has for its labour force.

It will further ensure that workers’ rights are preserved, and their dignities are protected. Employers will also have more respect for their workers’ rights, he said, knowing that any crime or infringement is taken seriously.

On Wednesday, Yousef Al Abri, acting undersecretary of the judicial department, said the resolution is part of the federal labour law issued by President Sheikh Khalifa in September.

That law set out working conditions for maids, nannies, gardeners and others, guaranteeing at least 12 hours off duty a day, including eight consecutive hours, and 30 days of paid annual leave.

It sets out fines employers and recruiters up to Dh100,000 for failing to guarantee these rights or to those who discriminate, harass or force work on the people they employ. It covers 19 occupations.

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