Anti Slavery Groups score own goal with Etihad as choice of conference venue
Wednesday 8th March 2017 14:08 News Posted by Nigel P.

A foreign female worker in the UAE states her case

A collection of Police enforcement bodies, NGOs and trafficking groups tasked with tackling modern day slavery  and trafficking have been slammed by a leading human rights group  for its insensitive choice of venue to host a conference on the problem.

The conference was held at the Legend’s Lounge, in Manchester City FC’s, Etihad Stadium.

The internationally respected group Human Rights Watch, that uncovers and campaigns against slavery and trafficking abuses, has been running a campaign highlighting human rights abuses in the United Arab Emirates.

HRW have been especially active in Manchester since members of the UAE royal families acquired ownership Manchester City FC

They have partnered up with rights groups resident in the city, which  has a proud history of speaking out in defence of  universal rights since the Peterloo Massacre in 1819.

The Manchester area was also the birth place of the Chartist Movement, the Trade Union movement (the first  Congress was held here) as well as the birthplace of Women’s Suffragette  movement.

Indeed a direct descendant of Emily Pankhust has added her name to a letter asking prominent Manchester politicians to support a plea to the UAE Ruling Families to reform women workers rights.

HRW along with a Manchester based  group recently sent out the letter to local MPs and politicians including Andy Burnham MP who is the Labour candidate set to replace the current Manchester Mayor and Crime Commissioner Tony Lloyd.

The Crime Commissioner who along with Greater Manchester Police’s Modern Anti Slavery Unit hosted the conference, has also been asked to support the letter that pleads for recognition of workers rights especially women’s rights on this International Women’s Day.

Andrew Gwynne in the House of Commons

Last year Denton and Reddish MP Andrew Gwynne staged his own protest in favour of workers rights in the UAE outside the Etihad Stadium.

Senior UAE analyst at HRW, Nick McGeehan said : “It’s great to see North West organisations coming together to tackle the problem of slavery, but the choice of the Etihad stadium as the venue for the meeting is rather ironic since the UAE government which owns and runs Manchester City oversees a labour system that enables precisely the sort of abuses these organisations want to stamp out. Not only that, but senior members of the Al-Nahyan family were personally implicated in a modern slavery case in Brussels in 2008, a matter of months before they bought Manchester City.

Speaking before the conference Detective Chief Superintendent Russ Jackson, Head of Greater Manchester Police’s Modern Slavery Unit said: “In 2015 we held a modern slavery summit to bring modern day slavery and trafficking to the forefront of people’s mind.

“We’ve come a long way since then but slavery continues to be a problem and unfortunately it is happening every day across our communities, often right in front of us.

“We all have a role to play in spotting the signs of modern slavery and I’m delighted to welcome so many organisations to our conference to share ideas and, ultimately, help us to end slavery and rescue people from living and working in such horrendous conditions.”

Greater Manchester Mayor and Police and Crime Commissioner Tony Lloyd said: “When selecting a venue for any event, we assess it on the basis of accessibility, location, value for money, facilities and capacity. The landlord of the Etihad Stadium is Manchester City Council, and the partnership team behind yesterday’s event will have assessed the venue much like they would have any other.”

 

 

The letter which Tameside MPs are invited to support can be read below:

 

LETTER TO BE SENT ON MARCH 8, 2017

Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al-Nahyan

Deputy Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates

Cc: 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.

However, these laudable actions are at odds with the fact that hundreds of thousands of woman 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, @