Indonesian women continue migrating to Middle East for work despite government ban
A new report from Migrant Care has found that more than 1,000 women have traveled to the Middle East for domestic work despite government moratorium.
The Indonesian government announced a ban on any new labor-based migration to the Middle East in May 2015 after several high-profile reports of abuse.
The revelation comes amidst ongoing efforts by the government to formalize labor practices in the domestic services industry both at home and abroad, with an estimated 2.3 million Indonesian domestic workers abroad and an additional undocumented population.
UAE acquits Libyan-Americans and Libyan-Canadian of militancy charges
Two Libyan-Americans and a Libyan-Canadian have been detained in the country since their 2014 arrests carried out in the wake of the passage of the UAE’s Anti-Terrorism Law, initially accused of supporting Libyan terrorist groups.
The men had been held in secret for months, with reports indicating torture and deteriorating health during their more than 500 days of detention without a trial.
The three businessmen had reportedly traveled in and out of the UAE without incident for decades, but the UAE’s zero-tolerance policy towards extremism has made many with even tenuous connections to countries with designated terrorist groups vulnerable.
One of the few truly global holidays, International Workers’ Day (May Day) is both a worldwide celebration of the working classes as well as a day to draw attention to ongoing insecurities workers around the world face. May Day has historically had a twofold purpose: a day for workers to voice their concerns over contentious labor policies and for governments to reaffirm their commitments to workers’ rights and just labor practices. At times little more than public relations campaigns and at others violent clashes between governments and workers, global May Day events have highlighted the diverse relationships between labor, employers, and government around the world. Here are the highlights of May Day 2016 in more than 30 countries:
Bike rallies were held in Pune as Indian PM Narendra Modi saluted workers on Antarrashtriya Shramik Diwas, a public holiday. Pakistan‘s major labor unions convened in Lahore to speak out against poor working conditions, violations of international labor conventions, and ongoing privatization in the country. As Bangladeshi officials addressed labor relations and welfare reforms amidst a day of union-organized programming, in Kathmandu, Nepali workers marched while awaiting the ratification of the Labour Act, which guarantees greater social security for workers. Across the Indian Ocean, Australian union leader singled out penalty rate protection and tax reform as major Labour Day issues, with the date of the holiday having been a point of contention as well.
In cities across France, tens of thousands marched in protest against proposed labor reforms that would loosen the country’s controversial employment and job security policies. Jeremy Corbyn became the first U.K. Labour party leader to attend a May Day rally in a half-century when he spoke to a crowd of thousands in London, reaffirming solidarity against anti-immigrant sentiment and addressing anti-Semitism accusations that have plagued his party recently. Spain saw thousands across its cities gather, many protesting ongoing austerity measures. An estimated 800,000 gathered in Rome‘s San Giovanni Square, with this year’s event dedicated to slain Italian student Giulio Regeni.
Some 2,000 convened in rain-soaked Zagreb to hear labor leaders protest the increased retirement age and ongoing poverty in Croatia. Moscow hosted a mass demonstration in the city’s Red Square estimated in size from the tens of thousands to 100,000, while thousands gathered in Istanbul’s Bakirköy district under a heavy police presence in the wake of urban suicide attacks and ongoing violence across Turkey.
From New York to Los Angeles, demonstrations in the U.S. highlighted widening economic inequality in the country and an election season marred by racist, xenophobic, and Islamophobic sentiment. While most protests took place without incident, a peaceful march turned violent in Seattle, leading to five injured officers and nine arrests. A similar outbreak in Montreal led to one injury and 10 arrests.
In Latin America, Brazil‘s embattled president and Workers’ Party leader Dilma Roussef rallied alongside hundreds of thousands across the country as her impeachment proceedings continue and workers fear the inauguration of her center-right vice president. Cuba‘s May Day parade continued the national tradition of expressing support for the Castro regime rather than directly celebrating labor or expressing concerns over labor conditions. In Argentina, President Mauricio Macro backed employers and touted labor proposals that had spurred mass demonstrations only days before. Elsewhere in the region, minimum wage increases were announced in Venezuela and Bolivia and a march took place in Santiago as Chilean President Michelle Bachelet announced a review of her labor reforms after the Supreme Court rejected a key provision granting exclusive negotiating rights to unions.
Middle East & Africa
Police in Egyptblocked hundreds of workers from assembling in a Cairo office as labor leaders and international organizations called for the government to decriminalize independent union organization. In Israel, more than 5,000 youth marched in Tel Aviv, while a Palestinian trade union renewed its call for the establishment of a minimum wage and the dismantlement of the Gaza blockade. A government-sponsored event in Dubai reportedly drew nearly 200 workers, though labor practices in the UAE continue to draw international scrutiny.
South of the Sahara, events popped up across South Africa as politicians sought to address the country’s high unemployment rate and appeal to workers ahead of August elections. In Nigeria, President Mohammadu Buhari spoke to thousands of workers in Abuja, touting his anti-corruption campaign. A Mozambique labor leader addressed a crowd in Maputo about the debts of state-owned companies and the need for wage and workplace reform. As the decline of oil prices has created economic hardship throughout Angola, the country’s two labor unions marched to draw attention to deteriorating worker conditions and the need for infrastructure maintenance. Workers in Ghana protested the privatization of the management of the state-owned Electric Company of Ghana, while the government insisted the company was still run by the state. Meanwhile, Ethiopia sidestepped Sunday commemorations altogether by moving May Day to May 3, when labor leaders plan to highlight ongoing struggles to organize Ethiopian workers.
Lebanese immigrants in the Gulf fear deportation as GCC-Lebanon relations deteriorate
Relations between Lebanon and the Gulf Cooperation Council have deteriorated after Lebanon refused to condemn attacks on a Saudi ambassador in Iran.
Sunni Gulf countries have targeted those viewed as sympathetic or connected to Shiite group Hezbollah in Lebanon, though Lebanese immigrants fear what constitutes “sympathy” or “connection” may be broad and arbitrary.
To date, Bahrain and Kuwait have deported Lebanese on the basis of Hezbollah sympathy, and Lebanese in other Gulf countries fear their visa-renewal process.
Women in the UAE–particularly the country’s large population of Asian and African migrant women–have long faced a brutal catch-22 under the Gulf nation’s Sharia-driven legal system after being raped. When attempts at legal justice can lead to their own prosecution for extramarital sex, women find themselves coerced into silence and, for migrant workers, at the mercy of employers who control their movement in the country and ability to leave. BBC and the Guardian highlight the stories of rape victims and the structural disadvantages they face, from illegal abortions to imprisonment with illegitimate children.
Middle East Eye interviews Eli Beer, an Israeli citizen who traveled to Dubai and recorded a video greeting despite the U.A.E.’s lack of diplomatic recognition of Israel. Raising money on a dare for the volunteer ambulance service he founded in Israel, Beer speaks about his perception of Dubai, his home country’s place in the Middle East, and the future of the Arab world’s relations with Israel.
Black hotel visitors receive apology from five-star hotel in Dubai after being asked to leave
A Nigerian event manager and her friend had been out for the evening at the lounge in the Mövenpick Hotel Jumeirah Beach, where a waitress reportedly refused to serve them and a security guard told them to leave.
The hotel issued an apology for the “misunderstanding” and claimed that such measures were not standard practice at the beachfront hotel.
Black women in Dubai face targeting under suspicion of prostitution–particularly at hotels–leading to racial profiling.
“A female staff came out and tried to hush up the matter saying ‘Obama is the President of US’ as if that had anything to do with us. I want the management of the hotel to realise that this isn’t 1930. This is 2015. You cannot walk up to random black women and tell them you will not serve them because they are black.”
Though strict in terms of public expression, Dubai has allowed rich, diverse communities to develop behind the walls of churches, temples, and other non-Muslim houses of worship. The BBC examines the growth of Dubai’s minority religious communities–including various Christian sects, Hindus, and Sikhs–and the extent of the freedoms they enjoy in the rapidly modernizing city.
Dubai health experts caution those afflicted with diabetes against unregulated Ramadan fasting
A panel of doctors issued the guidance measures through the Dubai Health Authority’s Twitter Clinic (@DHA_Dubai).
Advice included consultation with physicians about the health effects of fasting, whether the state of an individual’s condition allows for them to fast, and what precautions to take to avoid negative health impacts.
With health conditions triggering religious exemptions from Ramadan practices, children in particular were singled out as being exempt from fasting as most suffer from high-risk type 1 diabetes.
“Diabetics who are insulin dependent, primarily, type 1 diabetics are advised not to fast — permissible by the religion — because they are at a higher risk of developing hyper or hypoglycaemia. Yet, we find that there are some patients who insist on fasting. We advise them to work very closely with their health professionals to avoid major health problems, that may lead to a diabetic coma. Type 2 diabetics can fast after adjusting their medication in consultation with doctor.”
UAE hoteliers advise hotel guests to align themselves with local sartorial standards during Ramadan
At their hotels’ iftars, the fast-breaking dinners held at sunset, hotel managers have said that they will turn away inappropriately dressed patrons, including those in beachwear and tight-fitting clothing.
Managers and security organizations encourage guests to dress modestly, covering shoulders and legs as they move through communal spaces.
“Ramadan is a time of devoutness, modesty and moderation. … Refrain from wearing revealing clothing out of respect to those observing Ramadan. This is particularly important when visiting malls, hotels and restaurants or iftar tents in the evening. As a general rule, clothing that is sheer, too short, low-cut or tightfitting should be avoided, particularly shorts, miniskirts and sleeveless tops.”
A member of the Federal National Council of the UAE proposes a tax on remittances exported by foreign workers.
80% of the UAE population is non-native, with the country relying heavily on foreign workers for unskilled labor.
The rise in costs associated with such a tax could make the Arab world’s second biggest economy less attractive to foreign talent, though the Finance Minister says the socioeconomic impact has yet to be studied and is not currently under consideration.
Employees transferred a net Dh45.1 billion ($12.3 billion) out of the country last year, an increase from Dh41.2 the year before.