x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Treat maids better to cut crime, Dubai police say

More than 1,200 crimes were carried out by domestic helpers in the city of Dubai last year.

DUBAI // Bad employers were blamed yesterday for a spate of crimes by housemaids and other domestic staff.

Unpaid salaries, long working hours and abuse were all factors that drove offenders to crime, Dubai Police said.

Domestic staff committed 3,929 crimes reported to police in the past three years, 1,258 of them last year alone.

Escaping from sponsors, sex outside wedlock and theft topped the list of offences. Prostitution, sorcery and abuse also featured prominently.

"We found that the employer bore the responsibility for many of these crimes," said Lt Col Ahmed Al Merri of the CID.

"There are some employers who delay payment of salaries and forget that the main cause for the domestic helpers coming to this country is their extreme need for money. Thus they push some maids into crime.

"While many maids take the easy way out and run away, others hold grudges and take revenge on the family by either stealing or abusing their children."

Lt Col Al Merri was speaking at the launch of a one-month long campaign that will urge employers to treat their domestic staff with respect, but also to keep a watchful eye on their employees to guard against any opportunistic crime.

"Families must not leave their maids unsupervised and they also need to monitor their valuables so there are no opportunities for thefts," said Col Ahmed bin Ghalita of the crime prevention division of the CID.

The police campaign will also contact domestic staff, through their embassies and consulates, to educate them about their rights.

Part of the campaign will focus on the vulnerability of children left for long periods in the care of someone other than a parent.

In one recent case a maid hit a two-year-old boy, but told his mother he had fallen down. The mother grew suspicious and reported the matter to police. A forensic examination proved the boy had been assaulted.

"When we questioned the maid she said she did it because the employer delayed her salary and made her work long hours," said Lt Col Al Merri.

In another case a maid who had not been paid for a year and a half attacked her sleeping employer with a hammer.

Crimes against domestic staff by their employers were also reported, though police did not specify how many.

"The number is not high but we investigate any case that comes to our attention either through a direct report or through hospitals and other medical centres," said Col Mohammed Nasser, deputy head of CID.

Last week a case in which a woman is alleged to have locked up, tortured and starved two maids came before a Dubai Court. One of the maids died from her injuries. The case continues

Police also urged the government yesterday to create guideline booklets that could be given to employers and domestic staff at the start of their employment to educate both parties on their rights and duties.

wissa@thenational.ae