‘Maid industry’ in spotlight

Oh I did have a smirk the other day reading the lament from the Bahrain Recruiters Society – a strange name suggestive of a football coven or squad for military dragoonery – as with unusual honesty, they called off a strike, “because it would ruin their business.”

Too right.

In their ‘demanding’ business, to cut off supply at the start of Ramadan, when the staffing atmospherics approaches a shark feeding frenzy, would really be like cutting off the snozz to spite the moosh!

There was the Labour Market Regulatory Authority labour regulator, rightly referring to the proposed strike as “despicable,” just because recruitment agencies are now required to put up a BD10,000 bond as a cautionary against shoddy practice.

Most would say such a move has been a long time in coming with tales of shady recruiters a legion, promising untold riches to illiterates and phoney jobs to the unwary, who arrived in Bahrain expecting one thing and a certain salary, to be denied both, and pressed into bonded servitude that sometimes borders slavery.

Oleaginous, lugubriously lipped recruiters, who would make even a snake-oil salesman blush, accused of charging sponsors a huge fee and then leaving the recruits to languish under the burden of reimbursing their huge “fees” to pay for their visas or return of passport, maids sometimes being assigned to Dickensian-style workhouse conditions and if in desperation, they run away, they enter the netherworld of being trapped in Bahrain.

Recruiters are then nowhere to be seen, sponsors demanding a refund, police and immigration authorities “on the case.”

Sponsors unhappy, maids also, money lost, human rights trashed, the country’s reputation too.

So rightly the LMRA has stepped in to regulate the industry and ensure that rogue agents, uncaring sponsors and exploited maids are eliminated from the industry.

Despite years of calls for special legislation to govern the “maid industry,” nothing was forthcoming and now, at last, some rules will hopefully bring a measure of honesty to some recruitment bodies.

No wonder the embassies, which have heard many stories of maid abuse, are pleased.

Of course there was an outburst of self-interest driven candour, like the chappie who told the GDN that he objected to putting “any restrictions on any kind of business,” because it “will hinder the cash flow and agencies might leave the country!” (My exclamation mark in incredulity.)

Or an outpouring of altruism and lots of hand wringing; “Oh families are so dependent on maids during Ramadan, and now we may not be able to supply them,” and an inference that it will punish the innocent families.

Well, good riddance if the fee gets rid of the shonks; “self regulation” by the industry is deeply flawed.

There has been no real accountability nor proper scrutiny and the bad recruiters have damaged the reputations of the good recruiters as well, so that the whole industry needs a clean-out.

Well done, LMRA; don’t weaken in opposing venal interests.

A society’s “humanitarianism” is judged by the way it shields those without power, through the application of fair laws and rules.

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