COMMENT Tameside MPs United in supporting letter in rights plea to City’s owners

All three Tameside MPs have given their support once again to an appeal by Human Rights campaigners to Manchester City Football Club’s part owners, requesting improvement to Human Rights in the United Arab Emirates.

They have all signed up to the latest letter drafted by a Manchester-based campaign, led by the internationally respected Human Rights Watch.

The letter is specifically asking for more humane and ethical conditions, especially for foreign female workers in the Oil Rich Gulf State.

Andrew Gwynne was unequivocal that basic human rights should be enjoyed  by all people across the world.

Andrew Gwynne, a lifelong Manchester City  supporter,  signed up to the letter and had no qualms in naming the UAE, as a country where basic human rights lag behind standards people in the United Kingdom expect as the norm,  he said: “The rights that we in Britain so often take for granted are yet to be secured in some areas of the world, including the UAE.

“It’s really encouraging to see campaigns such as this get so much support from around the world and here at home. However we have to keep moving forward so that one day everyone has secured the four basic freedoms; namely, freedom of expression, freedom of faith, freedom from want, and freedom from fear.”

See below the letter that was sent on March 8, 2017 to Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al-Nahyan: Deputy Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates, with copies to Khaldoon al-Mubarak, Abu Dhabi Executive Affairs Authority, Chairman Cc: Simon Pearce Abu Dhabi Executive Affairs Authority Special Advisor.

March 8, 2017

Your Excellency,

The undersigned residents of Greater Manchester are writing to you in your capacity as the deputy Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates, which enjoys a close partnership with the city of Manchester. We are writing to you on the occasion of International Women’s Day to ask that your government demonstrate its commitment to women’s rights by granting female domestic workers in the United Arab Emirates the right to change employers.

Greater Manchester has a rich internationalist tradition of standing up for political and social rights. This includes a proud record on women’s rights, workers’ rights and opposition to slavery, and we feel it is important that we uphold that tradition by calling on your government to make reforms that would make a huge difference to the lives of hundreds of thousands of women.

Both Manchester City FC, the club you own, and the government of the United Arab Emirates, of which you are a senior member, have made it clear they support women’s rights. In 2015, Manchester City FC was one of the sponsors of Manchester’s annual International Women’s Day celebrations, and the UAE has ratified the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.

Angela Rayner is unwavering in her support for women’s rights across the world.

Ashton MP Angela Rayner, often outspoken on women’s rights, gave her unequivocal support to the letter and the campaign.

She told the Tameside Reporter: “I would like to offer my support to the granting of female domestic workers in the United Arab Emirates having the right to change employers.

“Please consider granting domestic workers the right to change employers without employer consent in order to demonstrate the United Arab Emirate’s genuine commitment to women’s rights. I am fully supportive of women’s rights and workers’ rights and strongly oppose slavery.”

The letter from Human Rights Watch to the UAE continues underneath…

However, these laudable actions are at odds with the fact that hundreds of thousands of women in the UAE remain acutely vulnerable to slavery and the appalling abuses that accompany it.

In 2014 Human Rights Watch documented very serious abuses of domestic workers in the UAE, which amounted to slavery in the worst cases.

Migrant domestic workers from Asia and Africa described not being paid, not having rest periods or time off, being confined in the employer’s homes, and excessive workloads, with working days of up to 21 hours. They described being deprived of food and reported psychological, physical, and sexual abuse. Many said their employers treated them like animals, or as if they were dirty and physical contact with them would be contaminating. Some employers accuse domestic workers of engaging in extramarital sexual relations (illegal in the UAE) in order to counter rape or sexual assault allegations that the worker had made against the employer. Media reports indicate that hospital staff have reported domestic workers who had miscarried or were pregnant to the police.

A 2015 investigation by BBC Arabic, which resulted in the documentary “Pregnant and In Chains” found that domestic workers are among hundreds of migrant women imprisoned in the UAE every year after falling pregnant or being accused of extramarital sex. The investigation concluded that women accused of sex outside marriage are routinely shackled and chained and includes footage, filmed secretly in a UAE courtroom, showing a young Filipina woman shuffling along a corridor with her feet chained together. Migrant workers who fall pregnant, whether through consensual sex or after rape, often cannot leave the country because their employers prevent them from doing so, or because their employers have confiscated their passports.

Much of the control that employers exert over their domestic workers stems from the UAE’s kafala system and it is the main reason these abuses continue. Migrant domestic workers’ visas are still tied to their employers, and they cannot change employers without consent, even from an abusive employer. Domestic workers also are still excluded from UAE’s labor laws, affording them even less protection than other workers in the country.

Granting domestic workers the right to change employers without employer consent would demonstrate the UAE’s genuine commitment to women’s rights and would be an enormous step forward in the region.

Manchester City Council’s partnership with Abu Dhabi has resulted in the regeneration of east Manchester and it will continue to transform a dilapidated area of the city for the better, bringing much-needed employment. Your involvement in Manchester is valued and welcomed, but on the occasion of International Women’s Day we would like to see you take action that demonstrates your respect for Manchester’s values.

We have also opened this letter to signatures from individuals working on the issue of domestic workers’ rights.

We look forward to hearing your response, which you can send to Pete Weatherby QC.

Jonathan Reynolds MP (pictured below) also gave his support to the letter that was despatched to coincide with International Women’s Day, saying he is “fully supportive and keen to sign the letter”.

Jonathan Reynolds MP supports the letter sent by Rights campaigners to the UAE owners of Manchester City.

All three of Tameside’s MPs have been consistent in their support for Human Rights in UAE, supporting an earlier  letter in support of the release of the Emirati human rights lawyer Mohamed al-token.

Human Rights Watch executive and campaigner Nick McGeehan said then: “We should be proud of all three of our Tameside MPs for their constant and continued support for Human Rights.”