Jordania - Migrant domestic workers abused (2012)

Official figures show that more than 322,000 registered migrants are working in Jordan, but unofficial estimates put unregistered migrant workers at 100,000-150,000. Many workers, especially domestic workers, are employed without the proper permits, have their passports taken and are forced to work extremely long hours. Bangladeshi workers have been banned from entering Jordan since 2007, after Bangladeshi workers went on strike over labour rights. However, in July 2010, at the urging of garment factories, the Jordanian government lifted the ban on Bangladeshi women.

In August 2008, amendments to the Labour Law were made giving migrant domestic workers equal footing with Jordanian workers in terms of medical care, timely payment of wages and subscription to the Social Security Corporation. Under the rules, all transfers of domestic helpers from a sponsor to another employer must be ratified at a labour directorate in order to ensure a more transparent process. Previously such transfers would occur at recruitment offices.

Despite the legal changes, for most foreign workers the situation has not improved and several cases of abuse came to light throughout 2011. The law still allows employers to restrict a domestic worker’s movements and allows employers to retain passports and other papers. In addition, the law still does not allow domestic workers to change employers freely, even after the contract period has ended and imposes fines on those who are in Jordan without a valid residency permit, which only an employer can apply for, but often does not. Police actions can often put the domestic worker further at risk and police often detain domestic workers whose employers registered them as “escaped,” even when the worker had a valid residency permit.

A Human Rights Watch report published in September 2011 called on Jordan to ratify the new ILO treaty on domestic workers’ rights which the government recently voted in favour of at the ILO in June 2011.

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