Ramadan in UAE: Do cases of runaway maids increase during the holy month?

The issue of distressed domestic workers has garnered attention, particularly among Indian workers in the UAE, with reports indicating a surge in distress calls during the initial weeks of Ramadan.

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The Consulate General of India in Dubai has acknowledged an increase in cases, facilitating the safe return of affected individuals to their families.

Although specific figures were not disclosed, social workers estimate that distress calls during Ramadan have surpassed those in preceding months, with numbers ranging from 5 to 7 calls typically escalating to over 20 during the first fortnight of Ramadan.

Reasons cited by some fleeing domestic workers include excessive workload and extended working hours, along with instances of mistreatment encompassing verbal and physical abuse. In contrast, labor-sending countries such as the Philippines and Indonesia have observed a decline in runaway cases among their nationals working as domestic help in the UAE during Ramadan, a trend attributed in part to enhanced collaboration with UAE authorities, particularly the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation (Mohre).

John Rio Aceveda Bautista, the Philippine labor attaché, highlighted this positive shift, indicating a reduction in runaway cases among Filipino domestic workers. While it's too early to gauge if there's a significant rise in complaints of overwork during Ramadan, Bautista referenced data from the Philippine Migrant Workers Office in Dubai, suggesting a current count of below 15 wards, with a further decline expected as repatriation efforts progress. This contrasts sharply with conditions observed over five years ago, when the number of sheltered Filipino maids peaked during Ramadan.

Former Philippine labor attaché Felicitas Bay, now serving as assistant secretary at the Philippine Department of Migrant Workers, reflected on past experiences, noting the influx of newly arrived workers seeking employment and subsequently fleeing due to various factors. However, recent trends suggest a shift towards fewer instances of runaway domestic workers during Ramadan, indicating potential improvements in working conditions and support mechanisms for migrant laborers in the UAE.

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