(MENAFN - Jordan Times) Experts in domestic workers' rights on Tuesday called on the government to activate a previous decision by the labour ministry requiring employers to open bank accounts for their domestic helpers, among other measures to help safeguard their rights.
They made their remarks during a workshop on "The rights of domestic workers", stressing the need to establish adequate shelters for female victims of human trafficking and other abuses, and to give them work permits and temporary residence permits while their cases are adjudicated.
The Public Security Department's (PSD) Lt. Col. Muhannad Dweikat underlined that over the past year, "the PSD human trafficking unit has processed and dealt with 20 cases of trafficking in human beings".
Seven of these cases, involving 37 victims, involve employers accused of confiscating workers' passports against their will and failing to pay their salaries, he said, noting that these are considered acts of human trafficking and forced labour.
Dweikat suggested creating a national fund to support victims of human trafficking, to be supervised and administered by a special committee and funded from the fees generated from the issuance and renewal of work permits.
He also recommended linking the Civil Status and Passports Department with the labour ministry's network and recruitment agencies to ensure that all parties have access to accurate and up-to-date information about a worker's work eligibility and residency status.
For his part, National Centre for Human Rights Legal Adviser Atef Majali said that 51,689 foreign workers are currently serving in Jordanian households as domestic helpers, compared to 43,518 in 2011.
"We are currently following up on 757 complaints from domestic helpers, of which 530 are related to passport confiscation and unpaid salaries," the president of the Tamkeen Centre for Legal Aid, Linda Kallash, said at the event, adding that some of these workers had to bribe recruitment agencies to release their passports so they could leave the country or work for another employer.
Kallash proposed enacting legislation to criminalise forced labour, in addition to enhancing the capacities of judges in magistrate courts who look into workers' claims so that they can better identify cases of forced labour and develop a mechanism to refer these cases to competent authorities.