The housemaid scam making slaves of modern women




Alpha Media Group


WOMEN are being duped into going to Oman for work only to find themselves imprisoned and at the mercy of abusive employers With feather-light steps Shirley sneaked out of the house, towards the waiting car. Her heart was beating fast. She knew that she had to open four creaking doors to get out. It was in the middle of the night, far out in the Omani countryside, four hours from the capital Muscat. The family where she had worked as a maid for two months under slave-like conditions was asleep. “I was thinking that if they had woken up, they would have killed me,” says Shirley. But she managed to reach the car, where a British man was waiting. She had found him on a social media platform for expats and he had offered to help her flee. It proved to be a close escape. “I think the creaking from the last door might have woken them up. As we drove off, people with flashlights were searching the terrain.” Now, Shirley is hiding in the British man’s home on the outskirts of Muscat – without a passport or a plan on how to get back home. “I just couldn’t stay with the family. I was a slave there.” Theresa, another Malawian woman, also lives in the house. Just like Shirley, she was promised a good job and attractive salary in Oman. But the promises turned out to be lies. Shirley convinced the British man to save Theresa from the family where she had been working as a maid. She knew of her through WhatsApp. The pair had both been invited to a group for Malawians seeking work in Oman. Theresa is unable to talk about her experiences. She has no words, only tears. “There is nothing I can say. I just want to get back home.” Many of the countries in the Gulf region use different forms of the so-called kafala system, which ensnares workers like Shirley and Theresa. It legally binds a migrant worker to his or her sponsor, usually the employer. Most migrant workers in Oman are women from Asia and Africa, who typically sign a two-year contract to work as maids or cleaners in private homes. During this time, they can’t change employer or leave the country without permission from the sponsor. If they run away, they are treated as criminals and “absconding” charges might be filed against them. Working conditions are only vaguely regulated and many of Oman’s domestic workers live as prisoners, forced to work up to 20 hours per day serving large families with little time off. Families often pay large amounts to recruitment agencies for a maid, so will make sure to maximise the benefit from this investment. Through sources, The Telegraph has obtained phone numbers from several Malawian maids. Over Whatsapp they have shared their accounts. All have similar stories of long working hours, a lack of freedom and, in some cases, physical abuse. All were promised a life that did not materialise. Rape and threats to kill One woman sends a long, desperate voice message. She has been spat on, physically abused and locked inside her room without food for days. “Today the nephew of the boss came with his two friends. They were masked and dragged me into my room. Then they raped me,” she cries. “The boss says he can kill me anytime. No one will punish him and no one will be looking for me because I’m just a poor girl from a poor country.” Another Malawian woman sends a voice message from a recruitment office where she is held. She says that they only let her use her phone 20 minutes per day and she is not allowed to go outside. The woman wants to go home. She was unable to cope with the workload in the home where she was placed due to a physical disability. As a result, the recruitment agency brought her back to its central office and is now demanding money for her freedom. This is standard procedure. The woman’s job contract, seen by The Telegraph, states that she has to pay more than $2,000 if she refuses to work. “My mother managed to borrow $1,000 and I paid them. But now they want more,” the woman says in a voice message. Analysis of positioning data from the woman’s mobile device indicates she is