Saudi Arabian police have spoken out in defence of Ethiopian maids working in the kingdom, describing accusations against them as “exaggerated” and unnecessarily causing panic among households.
A spate of allegations accusing Ethiopian maids of murdering children in their care led the Saudi government to temporarily ban the recruitment of Ethiopian maids while investigations continued.
Some also have taken to social media websites, calling for the deportation of all Ethiopian domestic workers.
However, a Jeddah Police spokeswoman said the assumption that such alleged crimes was widespread was wrong.
“Actually it is still on a very limited scale,” Nawwaf Al-Bouq told Arab News. “We see too many of the messages posted on the social sites, and they are full of exaggeration.
“We did look into many accusations, but a lot of them turned out to be inconsequential. I urge our fellow citizens to be more careful when accusing somebody of anything.”
The incidents include the death of a six-year-old girl at her home in a town near the capital Riyadh last month. Her throat was apparently cut with a knife and her family has accused their Ethiopian maid of murdering her.
A 10-year-old Syrian girl was reportedly beaten and stabbed to death by her Ethiopian maid.
In retaliation, the Ethiopian government last week cancelled 40,000 work visas for housemaids destined for Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabia had been forced to increase its intake of Ethiopian domestic workers after other labour exporting countries such as Indonesia and the Philippines banned their citizens from working in the kingdom because of disputes over exploitation and workers’ rights.
Last week, Saudi Arabia passed historic legislation outlining the rules and responsibilities of both domestic workers, including drivers, and their employers.
It includes giving workers nine hours of free time daily, one day off per week, one-month paid holiday every two years and sick leave.
In return workers can be fired or penalised if they do not respect Islam, obey Saudi law or “carry out their duties perfectly”. They also must obey their employer and his family members, protect the family’s property, preserve family secrets and not harm children or elderly members, the law reportedly states.