The Secret Slave System: A People in Serfdom
Billions of people today live in deep poverty and terrible conditions, this is old news. It’s also not considered worthy news that poverty can drive people extreme limits and act in ways they never considered themselves capable of. In Indonesia, the Philippines, Pakistan and India there is an amazing opportunity for people living in such conditions, and it has become a popular choice to make. This opportunity involves traveling to Gulf countries in the Middle East to work as guest workers.
Maybe this choice does not come across as extreme, on the contrary it sounds like an amazing solution to both the lack of work force in these countries and a severe poverty situation in others. However, the startling reality is not as it seems. On arrival in the new country, whether it’s Qatar, Dubai or Saudi Arabia, your passport is confiscated. You are then shipped into small shacks, where you are squeezed into a tiny area where you are to live together with many others and share a bathroom with even more people. You will have to work for at least 15 hours straight in a place which you yourself have not chosen to work in. At work you are treated badly, and in society at large you do not have the same rights as the local population. People look down on you everywhere you go.
The money you actually earn, is of course minimum wage, and everything you receive goes to paying off the ticket that brought you there. Many try to run away, but if you are caught you face harsh punishment, and afterwards you are taken back to work.
In September 2014 I worked as an au-pair in Doha, in a family who also used the help of Philippine domestic workers. They would cook, clean and wash all clothes while I looked after the children. As we took care of the household, the mother who was a stay-at-home mom, spend her time shopping online on her computer. One day a Philippine woman the mother called Rachel (this was not her name, however the mother couldn’t bother to learn all the maids names so she called them all Rachel) tripped and looked as though she was about to faint. I gave her a glass of water and she excused herself and said she was just tired- she had been up all night cleaning another family’s house, and later she had worked at some kind of party. She had just enough time to show me a picture of her two children back in the Philippines, who she hadn’t talked to for 10 weeks and tell me that her husband was in Abu-Dhabi, but she didn’t know what he worked with, and she didn’t want to tell him that she was cleaning other people’s houses. That same moment the father came home from work and became completely furious, at “Rachel” for not working, and at me for distracting her. There was nothing else to do but to get back to work, no explanations needed.
Passing through the streets in Doha, in a highly air-conditioned car, you see hundreds and thousands of east-Asian guest workers doing hard labor in the 50 degrees hot desert. They do road work, water grass (yes! grass in the desert) build houses and drive taxis. They do everything, and they don’t get paid. They are not entitled to their human rights, they are not free to leave, and they have absolutely no power over their own life. They are slaves who live in complete serfdom. I really don’t understand how this can be possible. How can we actually allow this to happen? Please read more about this and spread the word.
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