The Human Rights Watch (HRW) said that Jordan should immediately allow 24 Sri Lankan former domestic workers, many of whom were allegedly abused by their employers, to return home.
The workers have been stranded in Amman since January 2011, unable to pay government-imposed fines and threatened with eviction.
The migrant domestic workers were not responsible for falling out of documented residency status, had no means to rectify their situation, and are too poor to pay the fines.
“Jordan is in effect punishing these workers for escaping abusive households by piling on daily fines that prevent them from returning to their families,” said Christoph Wilcke, senior Middle East researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Meanwhile, the employers, who abused the women and, as the law requires, should pay the fines, go unpunished.”
On January 24, 37 Sri Lankan migrant domestic workers who had sought shelter at the Sri Lankan embassy left in protest at being confined there and at what they said was embassy inaction in facilitating their return home. The workers had been in Jordan for between 2 and 11 years. They had spent between a few months and more than a year-and-a-half in the embassy shelter waiting to go home, after leaving the households where they were employed. Some have since been deported or returned home after charitable payments of their fines, but 24 remain in Jordan.
The reasons the workers had fled their workplaces included non-payment of salaries, refusal by the employer or recruitment agency to buy them a required ticket to return home, beatings, or overwork. Human Rights Watch interviewed some of the workers in January and has received detailed case information from Tamkeen, a Jordanian nongovernmental organization that helps migrant domestic workers and serves as their legal representative.
Asiya Umma Noordeen, for example, told Tamkeen that she had worked for 11 years without pay before fleeing to the embassy on September 14, 2010. She cannot return to Sri Lanka because her employers never applied on her behalf for the residency and work permits required by law, so she has incurred thousands of Jordanian dinars in fines, the HRW added.