Giuseppe Sandro Mela.
Le principesse degli Emirati Arabi Uniti si accontentano di una modestissima Royal suite da 365 m2, una per ciascuna delle otto principesse. Il solo pernottamento costa 4,500 euro. Le suite sono prenotate per circa sette mesi l’anno. Con soli sette milioni e mezzo, più altrettanto per il frugalissimo vitto, ed una trentina di milioni per le spese minute, l’Emiro si conquista qualche mese di pace, senza il cicaleccio muliebre nelle orecchie.
Mica che rimanga solo, si intende: ma le concubine sono sottoposte al caratteristico modo di trattare degli arabi, modo che rende appetibile l’islamizzazione dell’Occidente.
«The Alneyahans are one of the most influential families in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and made international headlines when they bought the Premier League football club Manchester City»
Adesso il Belgio, sulla spinta delle ubiquitarie organizzazioni per i diritti, ha messo queste brave principesse sotto accusa.
«The women – all from the United Arab Emirates – have been accused of bringing their servants to Europe without a work visa and then holding them in inhumane conditions»
«The case could have far-reaching consequences»
* * * * * * * *
La prima conseguenza è che il Conrad Hotel ha perso uno dei suoi migliori clienti. Ma in lacrime sono anche i gioiellieri di Bruxelles e tantissime altre persone che vivevano sull’indotto.
Una cosa di cui nessuno vuole né osa parlare è cosa sia successo alle cameriere una volta rientrate negli Emirati Arabi Uniti.
Non se ne sa più niente.
La principessa Shekha Alnehayan e le sue sette sorelle hanno semplicemente cambiato stato ed albergo.
→ Deutsche Welle. 2017-05-11. Eight Arab princesses go on trial in Belgium
The women – all from the United Arab Emirates – have been accused of bringing their servants to Europe without a work visa and then holding them in inhumane conditions. The case could have far-reaching consequences.
Princess Shekha Alnehayan and her seven daughters traveled to Brussels regularly. In 2008 they rented their usual luxury suite in the Conrad Hotel for several months. And they brought along at least 20 servants, who had to attend to every wish 24 hours a day, without enough food, without a bed – and without a visa, let alone a work permit for Brussels.
Now the eight princesses stand accused of violating labor regulations and of human trafficking.
Overworked and unpaid
“The servants were not paid, they worked day and night and had to sleep on the floor. The princesses shouted at them and abused them continually,” says Patricia LeCocq, spokesperson for the Belgian human rights organization Myria.
Things only came to light when one of the servants fled and reported the case to the police. That triggered an investigation and police found the allegations to be true: The women were being held in inhumane conditions. A large-scale investigation was launched and the case landed in a Belgian court.
But it took nine years for the actual trial to get underway.
The Alneyahans are one of the most influential families in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and made international headlines when they bought the Premier League football club Manchester City.
Belgian media reported that the royal family’s lawyer repeatedly claimed police had violated the princesses’ rights by searching their hotel rooms. The ensuing legal battle took years.
No isolated incident
Furthermore, the case was largely ignored by the press. “I couldn’t believe that the media didn’t report on this more,” says Nicholas McGeehan from Human Rights Watch. He has been researching human rights abuses in the Gulf States for many years.
He confirms that this is not the only incident of servants being brought from the Gulf to Europe illegally and then mistreated. In January, the European Court of Human Rights heard a similar case. A family from Dubai had brought three Philippino servants with them on a short trip to Vienna. There, the women had to look after the children and do household chores around the clock. Whenever they made a mistake their employers would shout at them and threaten them.
The servants feared for their lives and turned to the police. An Austrian human rights organization took up their case and brought it before the court in Strasbourg. The result, however, was sobering. The court decided a trial would have “no realistic chance of success.” The accused had long since left the country, the court said, and no agreement exists between Austria and the UAE that could provide a legal framework for prosecution.
Human rights activists have long accused Gulf States of supporting “modern slavery.” They point to organizations that recruit workers in impoverished regions of Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka and Pakistan, promising them well-paid jobs in the Arab region.
But once they arrive in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain or the UAE, they find they have to work hard around the clock and do not get paid promptly or regularly. Many of them are abused and beaten. The domestic staff can not take legal action in those countries, as a system called “Kafala” makes the employer the legal guardian. It is also a crime to apply for a new job without the permission of the old employer.
Also a European problem
These human rights violations spill over into Europe regularly. Many Arab Sheikhs travel to Germany, Austria or Belgium for vacations or medical treatment. The way they often treat their employees may be legal in their home countries – but not in Europe.
This also applies to the case of the eight princesses in Brussels. “Myria” spokeswoman Patricia Le Cocq says the employers often justify their actions pointing to the legal provisions in their home countries. But in this case the princesses are also accused of having “smuggled” their servants to Belgium. Working in Brussels for several months, they would have needed a work permit. As they were brought into the country without such documents, “Myria” sees this as human trafficking.
Making an example
The Belgian court now has the chance to set a precedent. “If the court decides there is enough evidence to support a charge of human trafficking, the accused may have to pay compensation to their employees and may even face a prison sentence,” according to Patricia LeCocq.
“But the problem is that this case is already several years old. Even if the princesses are convicted, chances are the verdict could be very mild.”
Patrick Weegman, a Belgian lawyer specializing in international law, points out another problem: “If the princesses are found guilty, the chances are that the United Arab Emirates will refuse to extradite them,” he says.
Human rights activists find the situation frustrating. But HRW activist McGeehan sees one ray of hope. “The trial itself could have an effect. It will link one of the wealthiest families in the world to human trafficking and slavery.” This, he feels, may at least turn the spotlight on human rights violations in the Gulf States.
→ Bbc. 2017-05-12. Al-Nahyan trial: UAE princesses accused of servant abuses
Eight Arab princesses are on trial in Brussels for trafficking and abusing servants during a stay there.
Sheikha Hamda al-Nahyan and her seven daughters hired a floor of rooms at a luxury hotel over eight months in 2008.
They brought with them from the United Arab Emirates a retinue of more than 20 servants whom they are accused of holding in conditions close to slavery.
The plaintiffs say they were prevented from leaving the hotel and forced to eat the princesses’ leftovers.
The princesses are being tried in absentia along with an Indian butler.
If found guilty, they could face hundreds of thousands of euros in damages and even a prison sentence – but rights activists say it is highly unlikely that the UAE would extradite them to serve time behind bars.
Nonetheless, it would be “hugely significant” if one of the wealthiest families in the world was publicly linked with trafficking and slavery, says Nicholas McGeehan, an expert on migrant workers in the Gulf for Human Rights Watch.
He argues that despite being abolished in law, domestic slavery continues in Gulf states – “perpetuated by ruling elites for whom it serves an important societal purpose in conferring status”.
He added: “It’s top-down and tolerated.”
The princesses deny the charges, and the BBC has contacted their defence for comment.
‘Deprived of food and water’
The case came to court on Thursday and was hearing from defence lawyers on Friday morning.
The case came to light when one of the servants escaped from the hotel.
One of the alleged victims told Belgian television that the women were detained in hotel rooms with private guards and prevented from going outside.
They had to be available to take orders 24 hours a day, slept on the floor in the princesses’ rooms and forced to eat the princesses’ leftovers. One who complained is alleged to have been deprived of food and water for three days.
As well as charges of inhumane treatment, the princesses are also accused of failing to procure the correct visas and work permits for their servants as well as failing to pay wages.
Legal challenges to proceedings by the defence have meant the case has taken nine years to get under way. They have challenged, for instance, whether the police had a legal mandate to enter the princesses’ hotel suites.
The case was cleared to go to court in 2010, but the case has been stalled by procedural challenges, Stef Janssens told the BBC. He works for Belgian rights organisation Myria which has been supporting the alleged victims.
“The princesses are of course very important people with immense means and prestige, while the victims are very vulnerable,” he said.
“The princesses hired three specialist lawyers who twice went to Belgium’s highest court to challenge procedure. Not everyone has the means to do that.”
The princesses carried out the alleged abuses in the same year that Sheikh Mansour Bin Zayed, another member of the UAE’s al-Nahyan ruling family, bought Manchester City football club.