'Slaves' sue work agency

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 05 January, 1999, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 05 January, 1999, 12:00am
 

Fifty-one mainland domestic workers are said to be suing a Kuwaiti-based employment agency, accusing it of swindling and abducting them to use as slaves.


The women, lured to the state by the promise of earning US$500 (HK$3,870) a month, paid up to 40,000 yuan (HK$37,200) when they signed work contracts in their home province of Jilin, the Baokan Wenzhai newspaper reported.


But after arriving in Kuwait last March, the women were forced into a life of 'slavery' by a man named Amir who got US$750 for each of them from their employers, the paper said.


The women were forced to sign new contracts which were written in Arabic and English. They were refused time off and often had to work more than 12 hours a day. Their pay was cut to US$135 a month.


Many of the women were physically abused by their bosses if they did not complete their duties. When not working, the women were locked in their rooms.


The Chinese Embassy became aware of the women's plight when one who tried to escape ended up in hospital with injuries suffered in the attempt. She returned home two months later.


The embassy got the other women released from their contracts and sent them back to Jilin. It pressured the Kuwaiti Government to close down Mr Amir's employment agency, the paper said. The women now want compensation for psychological damage.


The Jilin agency to which the women signed up was introduced to Mr Amir's operation by a Chinese couple, living in the United Arab Emirates, who were unaware of the Kuwaiti agency's bad practices, said the paper.


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