Doctors Without Borders is an international organization. They give medical aid wherever it is needed in the world.
Every day, Doctors Without Borders teams deliver emergency medical aid to people in crisis, with humanitarian projects in more than 70 countries. Their teams are taking part in the horrific testimonies from migrants and refugees. Many of the migrants, of should I say refugees of poverty, are from The Gambia and other African countries and they end up in camps in Libya. These people are violated and abused by security forces, the militia, the smuggling networks and criminal gangs.
The Doctors Without Borders that are working in Libya have seen that most of the refugees living in the camps are suffering from the awful conditions. Perhaps I should use the word existing, instead of living, as it is mainly a matter of trying to survive. The refugee camps are filled to the brim, people sleep on thin mattresses on the ground. There is not enough food or clean water. Diseases spread like wildfire as the refugees are not getting medical attention in time. Skabies, lice and fleas occur, many suffer from malnutrition and become ill because of unclean water. Because of the terrible state of the refugee camps, many try to flee from Libya over the Mediterranean Sea. They are stopped, out on the open waters, by the Libyan Coast Guard and are forced back to Libya again.
Under cover of the darkness of the night, refugees are sold at slave markets. These kind of markets are against the law, even in Libya, but the so-called protectors of the law are soundly asleep at night or pretend not to know. Some money exchanged and silence is bought. Libya is a poor country, the unemployment is high, wages for those who have a job are low, so some extra money is always welcome. Don’t we know that from The Gambia? Oh yes, we do! Some money under the table and a lot of problems have been solved. The people who are sold at the slave market end up in Saudi Arabia and the UAE, United Arab Emirates. Muslim countries without Muslim values when it comes to what can be done in more or less secret.
I read an article about Gambian workers who stay in the UAE. The workers complain about their working conditions, telling about harassment, exploitation and discrimination.
Unfortunately this has been a well known fact for several years now, that migrant workers are facing severe conditions. Men working at building sites for at least 12 hours a day in an excrutiating heat. They stay the nights in crowded baracks, forbidden to leave the premises where the baracks are placed. The salaries are low, often withheld and there is no use of complaining as no-one is caring for the migrant workers needs. Some workers have come to the UAE after being sold as slaves at the markets in Libya, others have been fooled by recruiters who had promised exaggerated salaries or job descriptions that differ greatly from what the workers end up doing.
Migrant workers are mistreated, the working conditions are brutal, the working days too long, the worker’s passports are often withheld so the workers can’t quit and go home. If the workers try to leave the areas where they are supposed to stay at night, they will be arrested and beaten. The conditions for male migrant workers are tough, but for the females it is even worse. They are mostly domestic workers and are even more restrained than the male migrants. The women are housed in the employer’s home and have no freedom at all. They work 7 days a week, from very early morning until late at night. They are not allowed to step outside without their employer’s permission. If so, they will get arrested and end up in more misery than before.
Too many of the female migrant workers are sexually abused, by their employers but also by other men who take their chance as they know it will lead to no consequences for them. If the female becomes pregnant as a result of abuse or rape, she will be thrown out of the country. If she is lucky, she will be able to return home, but most of the times it is the woman who must bear the blame so where can she go? She ends up somewhere as a prostitute. This cycle of misery, for women who have been sexually abused, never seems to end.
In the UAE it is against the law for unmarried people to have sex, and even worse; for an unmarried woman to become pregnant. She will either be thrown out of the country or end up in jail. When she has given birth to her baby, it will be taken away from her and she will never see it again. Why is it always the women who suffer most, no matter if they live in their own countries or if they are forced to live elsewhere? Where is the compassion and the understanding for the women? It is 2023 and we brag about being a modern society, but still medieval laws rule.
Men are ruled by lust more than anything else. Even in more equal societies, there is a difference between how men versus women can act. That differs, of course, in which country people live, but equality hasn’t come as far as we wish to believe. It doesn’t seem to matter that countries like Saudi Arabia and the UAE are Muslim, the rules of lust are stronger than the rules of God. The suicide rate among the migrant workers is high. People who have lost the sense of hope completely also lose their will to live. Suicide is considered as a sin by many people, but it should be a deeper and more severe sin to be the one, or the ones, forcing someone else to their death.
Not long ago there was a video shared on the internet where we could see a female domestic worker hanging from the railing of a balcony in Saudi Arabia. She was desperate to get away from the constant beating and abuse of her employer. The female employer was seen beating the domestic workers hands so she should lose the grip and fall to her death. People who saw this were shocked and shouted to the beating woman to stop, but she didn’t listen. You can imagine what happened to the poor domestic worker; she fell to her death. Death has always come as a saviour to enslaved people. There are several stories about that in the Holy Bible, and the slaves in the US, a long time ago, sang about that in their hymns.
When we investigate the living conditions of the migrant workers in Dubai or elsewhere; let us not forget the female workers. They are ruled by fear, fear of getting beaten, sexually abused, losing their income with which they many times support their whole family back home. The women also fear becoming pregnant because of the abuse, knowing that their situation will become even worse than before. The women also believed the recruiters who promised them good salaries and easy work. The women are now stuck in a country that is not their own, where they have no support by the law, they are in the hands of exploiters who show no compassion at all. Poverty is making people desperate. Desperate times need desperate measures so the ones who lead these people into their despair are the ones who should bear the blame.