Who can the exploited call on for help?: Tales of a Domestic Worker
2015-10-01 15:53:25 -
Human Rights

Mariaam Bhatti


I never really thought much about the nature of calls people working in emergency services get every day, hour, minute of their working days. But perhaps among those calls, there are some distressing cries for help from workers trapped in exploitative situations. Which makes me think there is a need for people who work in all different sectors, especially Government departments but also the general public and religious institutions, to know how or where to refer people when such a need arises.


One article I read in the Boston Globe online knocked a little sense to my head. It was a story accompanied by audio of a call made by a domestic worker who reported that she was not allowed to leave the house, even on her only day off, and that she was working very long hours, six days a week, with no pay.


It was claimed, believe it or not, that the reason her employer did not want their domestic worker going out was in case she contracted germs outside that would be fatal to her employer’s sick child. On one hand this sort of makes sense, but of course it’s completely unreasonable.


However, what I could not believe as I was reading was when the article said that to get her freedom, this worker called emergency services. I would never have thought to do that. In fact, when I felt trapped in my worst domestic work experience, I googled the number for the Garda, but I did not get any help there, and I was certain it was my end.


My ever wandering mind came back to Ireland, and I started to wonder where such calls are referred to when they arrive? Citizens Information? Migrant information centres? The Garda or labour department? I asked myself what I would have done if I was at the other end of the line talking to a distressed worker desperately needing help – how would I have handled it?


For this reason I think inter-agency co-operation is crucial. People in various departments that are likely to come across various issues, including labour exploitation, really need to have better knowledge of the signs, and to have some sort of an ‘emergency plan’ tailored around certain issues. 


I know some of this is happening already, but more needs to be done to tackle exploitation in workplaces. If we all cared enough to look out for vulnerable fellow human beings, we could possibly reduce the scale at which exploitation is still happening.



Mariaam Bhatti is a member of the Domestic Workers Action Group and Force Labour Action Group of the Migrant Rights Centre Ireland

TAGS : Tales of a Domestic Worker Mariaam Bhatti Exploitation Labour Exploitation
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