x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Shelter swamped with housemaids waiting to go home

A shelter for Filipinas awaiting repatriarion has been overwhelmed by housemaids who fled their employers' homes.

ABU DHABI // A shelter that normally can accommodate 30 Filipinas awaiting repatriation has been overwhelmed by more than 100, most of them housemaids who fled their employers' homes. Philippines Embassy officials have asked the Interior Ministry to help repatriate the women. "We usually receive three to four maids a day," said Nasser Munder, labour attaché at the Philippines labour office here. "But on Sept 18, we received 18, and now there are 102 women in our shelter."

The women are fed and counselled in the shelter, which is managed by Filipino labour and welfare officials. A similar facility in Dubai had 88 women in its care yesterday. Evelyn Llanes, the welfare officer at the labour office, recently met an official at the Al Wathba deportation centre to seek help in sending the distressed housemaids home. Mr Munder said the embassy was told to write to the Abu Dhabi Naturalisation and Residency Department, asking that women with airline tickets but no passports be allowed to stay at the detention centre until they were repatriated.

He said the deportation centre stopped accepting absconding housemaids after the UAE amnesty for illegal residents. More than 340,000 people left the country or regularised their visas during the amnesty from June to Nov 2007. Clearance from immigration is required for the women to return home. "The immigration will not accept silly reasons for running away from their sponsors; examples are being 'overworked' or they have to tend to a sick relative back home," Mr Munder said.

Absconding maids who stay in the deportation centre are likely to be repatriated much earlier than those who are in the shelter, he said. "The deportation centre in Al Wathba is safe," Mr Munder said. "It has a spacious room with a large carpet. Since there are no beds, they have to sleep on the carpet. But the atmosphere is good and they have catered food." With so many housemaids leaving their employers, Mr Munder said he was glad the Philippines government has proposed mandatory psychological tests for Filipinas going to work as housemaids overseas.

Under the proposal, the women would be tested to determine whether they can handle the stress of employment abroad. Those who fail the psychological tests would be trained in handling stress and attend a seminar at the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration. "So many complain of homesickness, being overworked, and claim they want to continue their studies," Mr Munder said. "They have to be psychologically and mentally prepared to take up jobs overseas."

rruiz@thenational.ae