The issue of abuse against women who go to the Middle East as domestic workers has been talked about many times. We have fussed and discussed about the recent tragic case of Alem Dechassa. The thing about these stories of tragic women is that they are quickly forgotten by most of us, it stops becoming the topic of conversations all too quickly until we hear of a new tragic story, and the cycle starts all over again. When does it stop? How come these women still migrate in masses to a potential life of slavery? Are they powerless over their own fate? The Government argues that workers who are abused have migrated to the Middle East illegally. However a person’s legal immigration status has little to do with the potential tragic situation a person can get themselves into when they uproot their lives and step into a new country. The fate of a happy or miserable life falls on their employer. The agencies bear some of the responsibility for sending people illegally and it seems that in the end there should be a way to prevent them from doing this. There are 219 agencies in Ethiopia who are responsible for sending workers abroad. This is not an unnamable number for a country as large as Ethiopia. If the government is able to determine which of the plethora of businesses in the country are using a cash register and abiding by the tax law, how is it then possible that they can’t control 219 agencies?
Currently, when a person leaves for the Middle East, training is provided by the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs about what they should do when potential problems occur. Some of the things they are told to do are memorizing important phone numbers so if something happens to them they can call somebody; to hide their passport so that their employer won’t take it away and not to have contact with the men in the house they will be working in. It doesn’t take a bright person to see that these kinds of trainings are automatically saying the country you are going to is not safe and there is a big chance you will find yourself facing a life of sexual and physical abuse.
I cannot put much blame on the women who after all the sad stories and such, still decide to leave. As humans we usually hear about the bad things that happened to people and we think it will not happen to us, it is moronic to think like that but also human. Most of the women have had it bad in their own country so despite horror stories they always think the grass is greener on the other side. A majority of the women who leave are uneducated, mostly from rural areas of Ethiopia, because of these factors it is understandable that they keep migrating.
A lot of Ethiopians believe if they were born or were living anywhere else but in their own country, their life would have been very different. They would make more money and be able to have whatever they want. It is like the only thing that is standing between them and prosperity and all the good life is their nationality. A person with a perfectly good job would leave that job to go to another country thinking they will make more money. In the case of those who migrate to the Middle East however it is different. Most don’t leave their country to earn more; they simply leave to earn money to be able to feed themselves and their families.
But the government is acting like an unfit parent who sends his four year old kid out at night to do whatever they want. What is the possible reason for the government to keep allowing its citizens to go to a place so unsafe that some of them die? There are at least 20 cases for visa that are approved every other day; if you do the math the numbers will shock you.
The other option is to ban citizens from going to the Middle East. Other countries like the Philippines, Madagascar and Nepal have done so. It is obviously possible to do it so why can’t the Ethiopian government do it here?
The 632 proclamation on employment exchange service is not helping in protecting those in foreign lands. Encouraging citizens to just work in their own country, when everybody knows that employment opportunities are not in abundance is not helping the majority. The people who go to the Arab countries to be domestic workers usually don’t have it easy in their own country, girls as young as 14 go to a place they know nothing about to make ends meet.
The Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs sends domestic workers to Dubai, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, Beirut is not on the list because that country has a very bad track of domestic worker abuse. But even in those other countries where Ethiopia has a diplomatic relationship there are far too many incidences of exploitation.
We shouldn’t let this continue, it does give a very bad image to our own country. Talking about the recent unfortunate events about some woman who get abused and then commits suicide a couple of weeks later , writing a few articles about it and lighting a candle in her name is not going to bring real change. I’m sure those who function on a high level who have the authority to do something about this ever disappointing and miserable issue have a conscious; it would be good if they acted on it.