Reform Labor Laws for Migrant Workers


Target: President Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan of the United Arab Emirates

Goal: Reform labor laws for exploited migrant workers

Everyday, hundreds of thousands of domestic workers migrate to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) seeking employment to take care of themselves and their families. But a new report by Human Rights Watch reveals that employers have been increasingly taking advantage of and abusing migrant workers, especially female domestic workers.

Almost 150,000 domestic workers are women, with most of them emigrating from East Africa, Uganda and the Philippines. The list of domestic workers’ woes is extensive, from unpaid wages, to passport confiscation, inadequate food or living conditions, incredibly long working hours and physical abuse.

HRW’s report, entitled “I Already Bought You,” details stories of unfathomable exploitation and mistreatment at the hands of UAE’s dilapidated labor laws and shoddy immigration policies. Take Maria A. for example, a domestic worker who told HRW that her employer stole her passport and phone, made her work for weeks from 5 a.m. to the middle of the evening, with no days off, starved her and paid her only a fraction of the wages she was owed. Another migrant worker from Sri Lanka reported similar abuses, as well as forced confinement to putrid living quarters.

This exploitation is largely due in part to the UAE’s inadequate labor laws. The country’s kafala system does not allow domestic workers to transfer employers before the end of their contracts, and the country actively excludes domestic workers from common human rights laws. In an effort to combat these injustices, many countries have banned their citizens from migrating to the UAE for work. Unfortunately, these bans do nothing to solve the actual problem at hand: vague labor laws with far too many loopholes and increased apathy. Many employment agents have responded by simply recruiting more heavily from other countries.

Despite bans, indecent working conditions and the threat of sometimes deadly ill-treatment, many migrant workers, largely female domestic workers, risk their lives to find work. With that being said, the UAE needs to take proactive steps towards safeguarding the livelihoods of migrant workers and the only way to achieve that is through labor law reformation.

Sign the petition to urge President Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan to improve working conditions and promote safety by changing labor laws.


Dear President Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan,

For nearly a decade the human rights organization Human Rights Watch has been documenting stories of abused and exploited migrant workers. Many of them travel to the United Arab Emirates in search of work to take care of themselves and their families. Unfortunately, the promise of adequate monetary gain and employment quickly fades as they face countless perils at the hands of callous employers.

Many of these domestic workers spend an unimaginable amount of hours, sometimes from 5 a.m. to the middle of the night, for weeks on end, performing backbreaking labor for unsympathetic employers. Further, many of them are beaten, kept hungry, paid only a fraction of the wages they are owed, are physically abused and even have their passports confiscated. Although the country has been making slight steps to improve labor conditions, at large, the issues are grand and the employers still insidious.

Governments from both labor sending and labor receiving countries need to be mindful of basic human rights and work in conjunction to improve the lifestyles of hundreds of thousands of migrant workers. I urge you to support labor law reformation and work diligently to ensure that prospective migrants don’t face further abuses.


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: The Library of Congress via everystockphoto

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