Recruiting domestic helpers is a dysfunctional process — activists

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AMMAN — Three violent crimes committed by domestic helpers against members of their employers’ household took place in the past five years, underlining a defective process for the hired help, activists argued.اضافة اعلان

The last incident of its kind was on Friday morning, when an Ethiopian housekeeper stabbed a woman and her daughter in their Amman home. The spokesperson of the Public Security Directorate (PSD) said the daughter died of her wounds soon after arriving at the hospital, but that her mother remains under medical supervision in a critical condition.

Human rights activist Emad Al-Sharqawi, said that dozens of similar crimes took place in the past few years, so the Friday manslaughter “is not an isolated incident”.

“Recruitment offices for domestic helpers bring in unqualified and untrained workers from various parts of the world, without undergoing a background check,” he told Jordan News.

The Ministry of Labor did not answer repeated calls by Jordan News for comment.

Sharqawi said another reason is that the hired help “may not be suitable to work in a household environment in Jordan”.

A crime cannot be justified, Sharqawi insisted, but to reveal the reasons in each incident, it is important to revisit the recruitment process.

“Recruitment offices do not check the criminal record of the worker in his, or her native country,” he pointed out.

“They do not ask the worker for any form of certificates or documents to ensure that they have not committed an offense back home before bringing them to the country, and having them settle in with ... families in Jordan,” he explained.

In some cases, the recruited domestic helper turned out to be a man who posed as a woman when he applied at the recruitment agency in his home country, according to Sharqawi.

“The recruitment process is dysfunctional to that extent,” he stressed. “There is no verification of the workers’ qualifications, training, criminal record, and even gender in some cases.”

Tariq Al-Nouti, vice president of the Domestic Helpers Recruitment Agencies Association, said that firms follow the law to the letter and spirit.

He insisted that background checks are run. “Each applicant attaches a no-criminal-record to the application, as required by the Jordanian law,” Nouti said.

Notably, the criminal record certificate required is equivalent to the one issued in Jordan for the purposes of employment, which shows current lawsuits, or subpoenas, if any, but does not show the past record.

“Regardless, domestic helpers go through a meticulous process of health checkups and tests, as well as security background check before arriving in Jordan”, he noted.

“The health checkups are redone in Jordan upon arrival, too,” he explained. They include a thorough examination of all infectious diseases, and other contagious ailments, as well as impeding illnesses that may affect the workers’ ability to undertake their duties.

“The incident that took place last weekend pained us all, and we feel for the victims and their families, but this is not a frequently recurring incident,” he pointed out.

“This is not a phenomenon,” declared Linda Al-Kalash, an executive director of Tamkeen for Legal Aid and Human Rights.

“The incident (last Friday) was like other crimes, there were reasons and motives,” she told Jordan News.

She pointed out that when addressing similar cases, the “mental state of the perpetrator must be taken into account, plus a myriad of other factors that drive a human being to kill another human being”.

According to Kalash, one of the issues that must be addressed is the lack of information from both sides, the employer and the worker, ahead of the recruitment. This includes the number people in the household, the type of work required, and other aspects of the contract that should be discussed and agreed on.

She said that worker abuse must also be taken into consideration. “The cost of hiring a domestic helper is high, so some employers take it as an investment and try to capitalize on it, one way or another, which leads to abusing the worker in some cases,” Kalash explained.

Sometimes, workers become homesick, or are too tired to keep up with the demands of a big household, or could not adapt to the culture and their new home, which are all factors that put them under tremendous pressure, she added.

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