Sharjah: Ten Ethiopians committed suicide in the UAE last year, according to the Ethiopian consulate in Dubai.
The suicides occurred in Sharjah, Ajman and Ras Al Khaimah and included seven women and three men.
In December, two Ethiopians, in Ras Al Khaimah and Ajman, committed suicide.
Ethiopian Consul-General to the UAE, Yibeltal Aemero Alemu, told Gulf News that the number of suicides increased to 10 in 2017, a significant increase from the two recorded in 2016. The figures in 2016 and 2017 do not include Al Ain and Abu Dhabi.
There are around 200,000 Ethiopians living in the UAE with many of them working as domestic help.
Police investigations confirmed that all 10 cases were suicides.
Expressing concern at the suicide incidents, Alemu urged employers to treat domestic help with an understanding of their culture and background.
“The sponsor should be educated about the maid’s culture and religion and in turn, the housemaid should be familiarised with her new environment.
“If you are a sponsor, you have to train them and respect their rights. Mistreatment is the main cause of most crimes by domestic workers,” Alemu said.
Alarmed by the increase in illegal recruitment of Ethiopians to the UAE, the Ethiopian government had placed a temporary ban on its citizens looking for work as domestic and blue-collar staff in the UAE. However, the ban could be lifted “very soon” once the labour agreement between UAE and Ethiopia is finalised, Alemu said.
The agreement will include the scope of work, limitations, protection of maids, among others issues. Legal frameworks will also be in place to close all illegal channels through airports, immigration and all networks, and bring violators to justice.
The Ethiopian government is also working to finalise the establishment of an institute to educate those who wish to work abroad as domestic help in basic skills, in addition to teaching them the Arabic language.
Every day, the Ethiopian consulate in Dubai receives several complaints from Ethiopian domestic workers related to abuse, harassment, rape or non-payment of salaries for several months or years [in some cases], Alemu said.
Many Ethiopian domestic workers, he added, were staying in the country illegally and brought here by illegal agents, with most of them based in Ajman.
“The UAE and Ethiopian governments are working together to stop illegal recruitments of housemaids. The UAE government is making a huge effort, especially in fighting human trafficking,” Alemu said.
Alemu said some Ethiopian housemaids are brought illegally to UAE by recruitment agencies and confined to a room and exploited while them a job. The hapless housemaids, who many a time sell everything back home just to be able to earn a livelihood here, are shocked by their predicament which forces them to end their lives.
Alemu urged all Ethiopians living in the to approach the consulate if they have any problem.
Meanwhile, Sharjah Police in a statement to Gulf News, stressed the importance of treating housemaids humanely, adding that if ignored or treated with aggression and contempt, domestic workers pose a threat to the safety of families.
Sharjah Police called on all housemaids, workers and individuals who have any kind of problem to not harm themselves and to approach the police.
The Sharjah Police General Command stressed that security and safety are among the most important strategic objectives of the Ministry of Interior and they are working to strengthen them through various policing programmes, including self-preservation from any kind of abuse.
Police assured the residents that they have the capability to ensure an individual’s safety. All channels of communication with police are open round the clock.
Sharjah Police have succeeded in preventing many suicide attempts and helped many people overcome their financial, marital and family problems.
Sharjah Police have urged the public to cooperate with them and report incidents of suicide attempts or suicidal tendencies to them.
Suicide is a crime under the law
People who attempt to kill themselves are treated as suspects and prosecuted before the Misdemeanours Court, according to the UAE Penal Law.
“Those who try to commit suicide may be prosecuted regardless of the reasons for such an attempt,” said a prosecutor.
“Under Article 335 of the UAE Federal Penal Law, a suspect who attempts suicide faces a maximum of six months in prison and/or a maximum fine of Dh5,000.”