UAE to stop issuing work visas to Ethiopian labourers and domestic help

By IndepthAfrica
In East Africa
Aug 1st, 2012

The UAE Government has begun drafting a labour agreement aimed at protecting the rights of Ethiopian domestic and blue-collar workers, and will soon temporarily stop issuing work visas for them until the agreement has been finalised, according to a UAE foreign ministry source.The move comes after Ethiopia earlier this week officially requested a labour agreement between the two countries to prevent the exploitation of its nationals by unscrupulous recruitment agents and sponsors.

Last week, Ethiopia announced it was banning its citizens from applying to work as domestic help or migrant workers in the UAE until the two countries had come to an agreement on the issue. The consulate in Dubai said the temporary freeze was to weed out illegal agents in Ethiopia and the UAE, as well as abusive employers.

“We are in the process of making a labour agreement,” said the highly placed source from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Mofa). “We will see what are [Ethiopia’s] different agreement terms with Kuwait, Jordan and other countries. It will take a little time.”

He would not specify when the agreement would come into force.

The Mofa source said his ministry will soon direct the relevant government departments to deny Ethiopian migrant workers UAE work permits. The decision followed a meeting on Sunday between Dr Anwar Gargash, the UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs; Mesganu Arga Moach, the Ethiopian consul general; and Dr Yousif Eisa Hassan Alsabri, the UAE ambassador to Ethiopia in Abu Dhabi.

“They will start to coordinate with the Ministry of Labour and Ministry of Interior to stop processing visas. It is good for the cooperation between the two countries,” the Mofa source said.

Ethiopia has already began scrutinising contracts and visas of departing nationals at its airports in an attempt to prevent workers and agencies from circumventing its recent ban.

The Ethiopian consul general said he had held talks with UAE authorities.

“We have officially requested the UAE Government to ban domestic workers for Ethiopians. We have requested them not to process domestic worker visas until a government-to-government agreement is in place to sort out the problem. We have officially proposed to start the process of signing an agreement,” said Mr Moach, who today visited an Ethiopian housemaid, Azeb Abebe, 24, at Rashid Hospital.

Abebe, who is in critical condition, suffered burns to more than 80 per cent of her body in a gas explosion over two weeks ago while working at her sponsor’s house in Al Barsha.

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