Tanzanian domestic workers are being lured to the Middle East where they are tortured and abused, a human rights group says.
Human Rights Watch (HRW), in a report launched Tuesday, called on the government to tightened laws to safeguard its citizens from exploitation.
The watchdog says workers are promised high salaries and good working conditions only to "face excessive working hours, unpaid salaries, and physical and sexual abuse."
“Some even end up trapped in situations of forced labour,” HRW says in its Working like a Robot report on the treatment of East African female domestic workers in Oman and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
"Workers who fled abusive employers or agents told us the police or their own embassy officials forced them to go back, or they had to relinquish their salaries and spend months raising money for tickets home."
The majority of domestic workers in the Gulf come from Asian countries including the Philippines, India and Sri Lanka but as those nations have strengthened protections for their migrants, African workers have become more popular, it said.
HRW estimates in the Gulf states there are “thousands” of domestic workers from Tanzania alone, since existing legislation on protection of its migrants is weak and labour is cheap.
“While many of these abuses take place during employment in the Gulf, gaps in Tanzania’s recruitment and migration policies place workers at heightened risk from the outset and provide little access for redress.”
Of 87 domestic workers interviewed, between November 2016 and February 2017, 50 of them were Tanzanians.
The researchers said they found that almost all of them had their passports confiscated on arrival and were forced to work up to 21 hours a day with no time off.
A visa-sponsorship system known as "kafala" also restricts migrant workers' freedoms, making them hostage to employers, while existing labour laws are not applied to domestic workers.
The watchdog has recommended that Tanzania sets up a rights-based training for those seeking to work in the Gulf states and establish diplomatic missions that can track and respond to complaints.
Meanwhile, Kenya has tightened laws to ensure the safety of Kenyans going to work in the Middle East as domestic workers as it moves to lift the ban that was imposed in 2014. READ: Kenya to lift Middle East jobs ban with tough rules
-Additional reporting by AFP.