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Isreal: Indian housekeeper sues over `slave conditions' ...whoah

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ElsewheresDaughter Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jul-20-05 07:36 PM
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Isreal: Indian housekeeper sues over `slave conditions' ...whoah

Indian housekeeper sues over `slave conditions'

Jacinta Asis Fernandez escaped from her employer's home, on the seventh floor of a luxury apartment building in Ramat Aviv, with all her belongings stuffed into three garbage bags. It was July 12, 9:30 P.M. Before she left, she carefully closed the door to her room so her employers would think she was still there when they returned from their evening out. Outside, Sigal Rosen, from the Hotline for Migrant Workers, was waiting to drive her to an emergency shelter for women. Fernandez assumes that only at 6 A.M. the next morning, when she failed to bring "Madame" her morning cup of tea as required, it was understood that the servant had left and would not return.

The Indian-born Fernandez, 32, worked for almost five years for Sanjay Shaha, am Indian diamond merchant who has lived in Israel for 15 years. This week, she sued Shaha and his wife in the regional Labor Court for back pay and benefits totaling NIS 250,000, and punitive damages. According to the suit, Fernandez worked seven days a week cleaning, washing, ironing, cooking, serving and gardening.

"The plaintiff was in fact the slave of the defendants," attorney Avner Bentov wrote in his brief to the court.

Fernandez would begin work at 6 A.M., and when the Shahas entertained, her work day did not end until 3 or 4 A.M. She was allowed to go to India to see her daughter, now 9 years old, three times during the five years, but received no vacation pay.

After five years in Israel, Fernandez asked to go to church and visit the Christian holy places. Her employers gave her one day off a month, from 6 A.M. to 4 P.M. Her wages: $200 a month, paid once a year.

When she visited India, Shaha would drive her to the airport and give her her passport. In Bombay, Shaha's brother-in-law would meet her and confiscate the passport. She received half her yearly salary at that time; her brother received the second half from Shaha's relatives in India, after confirming that Fernandez had returned to Israel.

Fernandez said yesterday from her hiding place that she had met the Shahas when they were in Bombay on vacation and heard they were looking for help. "I wanted to work abroad so my daughter could get a better education than I got and so we could buy a house," she said. Fernandez's husband works in a construction company in the United Arab Emirates, and their daughter lives with his mother.

Fernandez arrived in Israel in October 2000 with a visa arranged by the Shahas. The Interior Ministry confirmed yesterday that the visa was valid until September 2; Fernandez is listed as a cook. It is unclear why a visa was issued, as the family does not meet the usual criteria, and the Population Administration said it would look into the matter.

Fernandez said Mrs. Shaha did not allow her out of the house because "she said the Israeli girls would spoil me." In any case, she had no money, except for NIS 200 she received annually, NIS 100 as a birthday present and NIS 100 for her anniversary.

"I didn't want to argue with them because I didn't know anyone in Israel," Fernandez said.

After the Shahas refused twice over the past year to allow her to go to India for a visit, "my heart burned. I felt like I was in prison," Fernandez said. She told her minister, a Ghanian, who put her in touch with the Hotline.

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peacetalksforall Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jul-20-05 08:29 PM
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1. I hope she gets to escape her slavemasters and her brother. There
has to be a special place for slavemasters - a remote barren cinder that spins in blackness and extremes of heat and cold without end and with nothing to eat and only tea to drink.
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