onetoone
one
Current Issue
July, 2019
Volume 45, Number 2
  
5 April 2017
Greg Kandra




In the video above, a woman records her maid dangling from a window, crying for help, then falling to a rooftop seven stories below. The maid survived, but her employer has been arrested on a charge of failing to help her. (video: The Washington Post)

The Washington Post this morning reported on a story that is causing a sensation on social media:

The floor looks clean in this high-rise apartment, seven stories above Kuwait City traffic. Not a smudge in sight on the picture window. On the other side of the glass, the maid is hanging on by one knuckle, screaming.

“Oh crazy, come here,” a woman says casually in Arabic, holding a camera up to the maid.

“Hold on to me! Hold on to me!” the maid yells.

Instead, the woman steps back. The maid’s grip finally slips, and she lands in a cloud of dust, many stories below.

The maid — an Ethiopian who had been working in the country for several years, according to the Kuwait Times — survived the fall. The videographer, her employer, was arrested last week on a charge of failing to help the worker.

It’s still unclear what led to the fall. But it was not the first time a domestic servant had fallen off of a building in Kuwait, an oil-rich country where foreign workers are cheap, plentiful and live largely at the mercy of their employers.

You can read more at the link.

Over the years, we’ve reported on the difficulties many migrant workers face — most notably in The High Stakes of Leaving from the May 2012 edition of ONE. That report by Peter Lemieux examined Ethiopian migrants struggling to make a new start in the Middle East:

It is difficult to determine the total number of Ethiopian migrant workers in the Middle East. From 2008 to 2010, the Ethiopian government recorded some 37,000 Ethiopian women who left the country to work in the region — namely in Lebanon, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Yemen. All these women secured work visas through regular channels — government-licensed employment agencies or other recruitment processes approved by the Ethiopian Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs.

However, an untold number of Ethiopian migrants find work in the Middle East via “irregular” channels, unlicensed recruiters who often charge job seekers anywhere from $230 to $460 for their services, an exorbitant amount in a country where the annual average per capita income hovers around $180. Many require the entire fee upfront; others accept a debt bondage agreement by which the job seeker surrenders the first two or three months of his or her earnings on the job.

The majority of job seekers who use these channels come from Ethiopia’s impoverished countryside. Possessing little education and often living in desperate circumstances, rural Ethiopians are especially vulnerable to illegal brokers, who offer them a wealth of misleading information and empty promises. Observers believe the number of migrants who pass through irregular channels increases each year.

The profile of a typical Ethiopian migrant worker in the Middle East reflects the harsh realities they face back home.

A migrant is generally young — between the ages of 21 and 26. This should come as little surprise to Ethiopians and those familiar with today’s Ethiopian society. Half of Ethiopia’s 85 million people are under the age of 20. Most work on their families’ small farms. In urban areas, youth employment is high.

A migrant is probably single, has little education and comes from a poor family in which few members are educated. The average migrant’s family earns less than $17 a month. With few other prospects, a family may pull together to send a daughter to the Middle East.

Read more in The High Stakes of Leaving.