It’s a story that most of us must’ve heard frequently, the one of an Ethiopian girl from a poor family, Almaz, who gets hired by an agency in Saudi Arabia to be a maid. What follows is the classic script of segregation, slavery, abuse – sexual and physical – and ends in heavy bodily harm.
As soon as I read it my mind went to the people I saw in Dubai in the trip I made and wrote about in the post Sand, slavery and racism: welcome to Dubai, y’all. I didn’t witness such extreme behaviour but even someone as dumb as myself was able to see the pecking order established in Dubai and in the rest of the Arabic Peninsula: Arabs on top, then the white expats, then the undistinguishable mass of migrant workers, Morlocks that could be used, exploited and worked ’till death, with no rights to speak of.
You might be led to think that this is a joke, or a gross exageration, or that the pains of an absolute minority are worth the well-being of millions who live off the remittances of their emigrées relatives.
But… This morning, while sipping coffee, I did a small research. I went on Google, typed down “maid abuse Dubai” and got 250,000 hits back. I clicked on the first few articles, and this is what I found: a woman who tortured maids and forced them to drink Dettol has been jailed 15 years; a maid tortured and starved dies; a 12-years old Dubai boy assaulted and impregnated an Ethiopian maid; and finally, Gulf maids live in a reign of terror. And this is just a 5-minutes research made on a Thursday morning with methods that a statistics expert would find utterly laughable.
The bottom line as I see it is this: every time we go down there, every time we go to a hotel or a restaurant without checking how their staff is treated, or when we go strike unfair deals with someone only because they’re foreigners… we are accomplices of all this.