Paid To Be A Slave – Part III

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How lawmakers are fighting domestic abuse against immigrants. African officials are playing their part, yet many young people from sub-Saharan countries are falling victim regardless.

How lawmakers are fighting domestic abuse against immigrants. African officials are playing their part, yet many young people from sub-Saharan countries are falling victim regardless.

Countries in the Middle East are notorious for violence against women. Some of the forms of violence perpetrated include rape, domestic violence, sexual harassment and physical abuse.

An estimated 30 per cent of women living and working in the Middle East have experienced physical violence at some point in their lives. Yet thousands of women from all over the world continue to be lured to the region with the promise of steady jobs, only to be tortured and abused by unaccountable employers.

Nevertheless, awareness, documentation of domestic abuse cases, and laws to prevent domestic abuse or helping workers who embark on long journeys to work as house helps differ from country to country in Africa. However, all the current efforts are geared towards reducing the problem by dissuading citizens from seeking low-paid employment abroad.

Suspend agencies
Employment agencies have been banned temporarily from recruiting Ghanaians for domestic work in Gulf countries, the Minister of Employment and Labour Relations has said.

At a stakeholders’ meeting on legal migration organised by the Ghana Association of Private Employment Agencies (GHAPEA) in Accra in June 2017, Ignatius Baffour Awuah said the temporary ban was just one measure to help reduce the many reported cases of abuse faced by Ghanaians working in such countries.

The Minister said he had instructed the Labour Department not to issue further licences to employment agencies to engage in such business.

The deputy head of the Anti-Human Smuggling and Trafficking Unit of the Ghana Immigration Service (GIS), Assistant Superintendent Alberta Ampofo, has also advised licensed employment agencies to abide by the labour and migration laws in Ghana.

The chairman of GHAPEA, Alhaji Saeed Shereef, also urged immigration and employment agents to join forces with the association to put a stop to illegal recruitment of Ghanaians to foreign countries.

“The only way to deal with this menace, which is wreaking havoc in our dear country, is for all stakeholders to come together and come up with a comprehensive plan,” Alhaji Shereef said.

Helpline of Hope
In December last year, the Chief Justice, Sophia Akuffo, inaugurated the Helpline of Hope Call Centre at a ceremony organised by the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection.

Through the initiative of the then Minister, Otiko Afisah Djaba, working in conjunction with the World Bank, the Helpline of Hope Call Centre forms part of the Single-Window Citizens’ System to report complaints of all forms of abuse, including domestic abuse against Ghanaian immigrants in the Middle East.

The helpline, which is open round the clock, redirects callers to the appropriate quarters for the attention they need on a time-bound basis. Multilingual customer support is available.

The Helpline of Hope Call Centre receives as a matter of importance, complaints from aggrieved individuals, and aims to offer proper redress. Some of the allegations it handles involve child abuse, rape, forced marriage, female genital mutilation, child labour and physical assault.

Lines of communication to the centre include toll-free phone calls, SMS, email and visits in person, in certain cases, to designated bodies: district social welfare and community development offices, regional social welfare units, community focal persons/CLIC members and social protection (SP) programme offices.

In cases of domestic abuse against Ghanaian immigrants, victims ‒ or the family and friends of victims ‒ the can contact the Helpline of Hope, which works to provide immediate help.

Outside Ghana
After passing a new law to guard against ill-treatment of their citizens in Middle Eastern countries, Ethiopia lifted the ban on domestic workers moving overseas in February. An agreement between the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Ethiopia to protect the rights of domestic workers is to be formalised by the end of the year.

Kenya, which has the second largest number of immigrants working as domestics in the Middle East, has tightened its laws to ensure the safety of Kenyans going to work in such countries, after lifting a ban imposed in 2014. In addition, hiring agencies are required to furnish the government with quarterly reports on how many people they have enlisted within the period and their personal details.

Emma Mbura is a Kenyan senator who previously worked as a nanny in the UAE, where she witnessed rampant abuse and harassment of African domestic workers. She is now a tireless advocate against domestic abuse of workers in the Middle East and co-operates with the Kenyan government to rescue Kenyan nationals who are stuck abroad in situations of distress.

The Ugandan government has also initiated processes to impose a national ban on export of labour to countries of the Gulf region, as there are still frequent incidents involving abuse of Ugandan citizens in Middle Eastern countries.

Raise awareness
The Human Trafficking Act is a law which aims to prevent, reduce and punish human trafficking, and to facilitate the rehabilitation and reintegration of trafficked persons as well as for matters.

“People who end up being rescued are sent to rehabilitation centres or, if full, to hotels. They are well take

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