In the past several months AHRC has received requests from lesbians who are basically in servitude or languishing stuck in countries in the Middle East, to include United Arab Emirates (UAE), in cities like Dubai. In each instance the person had the promise of a great job for a hospitality group, a family, or a foreign corporation. As LGBTQI+ people some believed this would be a way to secure safety away from anti LGBTI persecution and violence in home countries.
In all the cases that we have reviewed the employee accepted the contract and landed up either being outed as lesbian or gay, in essence making them a criminal in the country and subject to arrest. Several had outstayed visas and had work permits revoked, making survival dubious while trying to find routes out of the country, to include having to pay exorbitant exit fines. Some remained trapped in jobs where they are treated like slaves. Many are stuck. AHRC has sought solutions - however warn of the complexities. If you are LGBTQI+ do not accept a job or try for asylum in one of these countries. If you are NOT LGBTQI+ - we say exactly the same. You are entering an industry odf extreme exploitation, servitude and in some instances slavery. HERE IS THE STORY OF A PERSON AS TOLD BY A UGANDAN NEWS OUTLET - This person is not LGBTQI+. From the story you will see how bad this is nonetheless. Note that LGBTQI+ have it even worse due to their criminalization in the countries as well as the blackmail and risks that come with being LGBTQI+. HERE IS THE STORY as told in Ugandan Monitor:
I then started looking for jobs and with no available options, I got an idea to travel to the Middle East because I had seen several girls my age following the same trend. Besides, many companies were advertising on television. With my mother’s help, I collected Shs150,000 which I used to secure a passport early in 2016.
However, I could not raise the money demanded by a labour exporting company whose services I sought. I also got frustrated by the bureaucracy imposed by the company. Trafficked to Jordan
A friend connected me to a man in Kampala who suggested that he had a ready job in Jordan and I did not have to spend on things like medical, training and registration, among others. The preparations were relatively swift but things unravelled when the agent asked me to pay Shs1m to someone at the airport’s immigration desk.
He told me that I might be stopped but there would be a person whom we had to pay before departure. I remember he told me to see a woman dressed in red who would walk me through clearance.
It was not easy to find the money but I finally found it because I had hoped that I would recover it in a few months after securing the job.
My first flight experience was defined by hunger since no meal was served from Kampala to Dubai and I did not have any pocket money at all. Other passengers were busy eating but my arrangement was different. It was not until we switched to Emirates in Dubai that I got an opportunity to eat. I was so hungry to the point that I ate whatever was served though I had never tasted such foods before.
In Jordan, I was received by my employers who drove me to the office of the receiving labour agency in Amman, which was in direct contact with the Ugandan agent who had worked on my arrangement.
I was promised a lot but everything was different on arrival. My phone was confiscated and I was only allowed to use a phone once a week.
Working for a family of eight where I had to do work manually, I would spend the day juggling cleaning, cooking and washing clothes by hand.
A month later, my palms started heating up and itching, especially at night. The condition became severe. On several occasions, I demanded that I be taken to hospital after enduring a lot of pain but my employers refused.
My employer’s stay-at-home husband started asking me for sex whenever his wife went to work but I rejected his advances.
Later, the family took me to the clinic. I was told that I was suffering from nerve contraction, which was suspected to have been caused by detergents that I used for washing clothes.
The head of the family then intensified his sexual advances, which I rejected. This created a much more toxic environment for me.
I was sleeping in a room meant to be a store for the family and I was not allowed to close it during the day even when I was resting. On several occasions, the husband attempted to rape me. Whenever I told him that I would report to his wife, he would retreat.
After five months of doing my chores while on painkillers, the family decided that they would foot half of my medical bill and I would compensate for the other half with a few months of work. I accepted. They never took me to hospital. Luckily, my employer’s home was near the offices of the receiving agency, I later noted. I asked them to take me back to the agency, but they refused. I stood my ground and after concluding my sixth month of work. I walked to the office of the receiving agency and asked them to either take me to hospital or back to Uganda.
Night in a toilet At the agency, I was accused of not wanting to work and I was locked in a toilet for a night without food or water but only a rag to sleep on. However, on my way to the agency, I noticed a police patrol car and copied the telephone contacts written on it. In my phone I had an Orange Telecom sim card from Uganda and since there was Orange network in Jordan, I tried the police number, to see if it would go through. Luckily, the call went through and the person who received it spoke English. After sharing my concerns with him, he asked me to check my contract and share the numerals that I could see, which I did.
Minutes later, I was picked up by the owner of the receiving agency who drove me to his home, asked me to freshen up, dress nicely and he gave me a lot of food. Later, my employer arrived and told me that she was ready to get me medical treatment. She also asked me to tell the police that I had no problem working for her.
At that point I was distressed and all I wanted was to return home. The police in Jordan gave me two options; they said they would abide by whichever choice I made.
They told me that if I wanted to return to Uganda, they would facilitate my travel and if I was willing to stay, they would compel my employer to fund my treatment and pay for my work. The moment I asked to return to Uganda, my employer asked the police to recover from me the money they paid the agent in Uganda and for my travel.
I told the police that the employer should consider my unpaid wages of six months as compensation and also cater for my return ticket.
ALSO READ: Inside Uganda, Saudi labour export deal Police took me to the deportation centre and they assured me that I would be taken care of as they processed my papers to return to Uganda. The deportation centre felt like home to me unlike the many people I found there who awaited help from their home countries. I returned to Uganda sick, with nothing except my luggage.
Returning to school In that moment of distress, as I fought depression and untreated health complications, my mother catered for my treatment and I was told that I had to undergo a surgery which I could not afford, though I had got some relief. AHRC HAS A FUND to rescue and sustain LGBTI people stuck in UAE. Donate HERE.