Thursday, April 7, 2011

Friends with Diplomatic Benefits?

UAE: Emirati officer accused of human trafficking in Rhode Island

April 6, 2011 | 11:27 am

Los Angles Times

An Emirati military officer has been indicted by a federal grand jury in Rhode Island on human trafficking and other charges after the officer allegedly took a Filipino woman working as a maid for him and his family to the United States and then kept her there under slave-like conditions.

Arif Mohamed Saeed Mohamed Al-Ali, 46, who is currently enrolled in a one-year program at the U.S. Naval War College in Newport, is accused of taking the woman's passport, forcing her to work long hours without pay and forbidding her from talking to anyone outside the family or attending religious services, the Providence Journal reported Wednesday.

Al-Ali is also accused of providing authorities with false documents in an attempt to prove he paid the woman $19,000 in wages, which were allegedly never transferred to her. Al-Ali pleaded not guilty on Tuesday. The woman, who ran away in October, is reportedly in hiding.

Human rights organizations have long been critical of the treatment of Asian and African domestic workers employed in Arab countries, and sadly, stories like the one that allegedly took place in Rhode Island are not uncommon in the region.

According to the Journal's report, Al-Ali had hired her through a company based in the United Arab Emirates, which has been singled out for its poor treatment of foreign workers. The situation in the region is so bad that the government of the Philippines has already banned its citizens from going to certain Arab countries to work as maids and nannies.

Several local initiatives have been launched over the years to raise awareness regarding domestic worker abuse in Arab countries. In 2008, a high-profile media campaign titled "rahma" or "mercy", aimed at Saudi citizens, sparked controversy with a series of shocking print and television advertisements featuring foreign drivers and maids wearing dog collars and horse bridles with the tagline "don't deny me my humanity."

--Meris Lutz in Beirut

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