Human Rights Watch is reporting that Tanzanian domestic workers in Oman and the UAE are being abused through an exploitative visa-sponsorship system and gaps in Tanzania’s migrant worker policies. The kafala system, which ties a domestic worker’s visa to her employer, is one factor that makes it so hard to women to escape abusive employers.
The 100-page report points out that the demographics of domestic workers in Oman and the UAE has shifted dramatically in recent years:
Thousands of Tanzanian domestic workers are estimated to be in the Gulf. Of those interviewed by Human Rights Watch, almost all reported that their passports were confiscated by their employers and that worked long hours, sometimes up to 21 hours a day. Some of their cases amounted to trafficking and forced labor.
Oman and the UAE both exclude domestic workers from their labor laws. HRW says the biggest impediment to domestic worker protections is the existence of the kafala system, which ties a domestic worker’s visa to their employer. If they want to change employers, they need consent from their first employer — making leaving an abusive situation nearly impossible. Those who run away are charged with “absconding.”
HRW also says that Tanzanian embassies lack the resources to help victims and they have little ability to help domestic workers get unpaid wages. Abused domestic workers have no complaint mechanism to turn to or way to access help returning home.