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Opinions Mon, 17 Dec 2007

Can Ambassadors Charge Their Domestic Workers Rent and Utilities?

Sometime ago there was a news item and a feature article on ghanaweb.com about a cook at the Ghana High Commissioner for Canada's residence who has decided to seek asylum in Canada. From the article it was clear that this practice of domestic workers sent from Ghana usually at the discretion of the high commissioner absconding and deserting post to seek asylum is a common practice in the Ghana Embassy in Canada.

The Writer claimed the cook who received a salary of about 2500 Canadian dollars was coached by some Embassy staff who perhaps have an axe to grind with the high commissioner Mrs. Amoako to take that line of action in order to embarrass her. It is abundantly clear that if this cook was deceived by some people to take that line of action indeed as claimed by the author , then those who deceived him did him a great deal of disservice because granted his asylum request is granted, it will be hard for him to get a job that will guarantee him a salary of 2500 Canadian dollars a month. In seeking asylum, this cook's claim is that he is abused by the high commissioner and family.

This claim the writer of the said article labeled a false but he admitted that the high commissioner charged the poor cook 500 dollars monthly for rent and utilities, and made him to pay for the plane ticket.The writer of the said article found absolutely nothing wrong with the practice of the high commissioner charging the cook 500 dollars for rent on monthly basis and claimed the cook was lucky that he had to pay just 500 dollars. Now this is where my problem is.

1.HAS THE HIGH COMMISSIONER THE RIGHT TO CHARGE HER DOMESTIC WORKER RENT?

2. WHERE DID SUCH MONIES CHARGED GO TO? TO THE GOVERNMENT CHEST OR TO THE HIGH COMMISSIONER'S POCKET?

3.EQUALLY DOES THE HIGH COMMISSIONER HAVE THE RIGHT TO DEMAND PAYMENT FROM HER COOK FOR THE PLANE TICKET TO CANADA?

I ask these questions because the high commissioner lives in a property leased by and paid for by the government of GHANA . She doesn't pay the rent, neither does she pay for utilities. All these expenditure are paid for by the tax payers of Ghana, so how come she can collect rent on a property that doesn't belong to her and more importantly where did the monies such collected go? Since the cook was employed by the government of Ghana and was sent to Canada, his passage to Canada was paid for by the government as it is the standard operating procedure. If that is the case then again how come did the high commissioner collect the cost of the plane ticket from the poor cook?

It is common knowledge that this corrupt practices go on in almost all Ghanaian missions abroad. Sometime ago, it was the Ghana ambassador to South Korea who was reported to be exploiting his domestic workers he sent from Ghana in much the same way. Is the Ministry of Foreign Affairs not aware of these exploitative and dehumanizing practices going on in our missions abroad? When the ambassador of a country is accused of exploitation and abuse by his domestic worker, it tarnishes the image and reputation of the country he/she represents. In most cases these charges are true !!! What is the Ministry of Foreign Affairs guidelines on engaging domestic workers by our missions abroad. It seems to me there is none !! Ambassadors of Ghana send all kinds of people ranging from extended family members to neighborhood friends to their duty post as domestic workers and this where the exploitation begins. Diplomats engage in some sort of human trafficking for profit. Some end up working as domestic workers but receive just half of their officially designated salary and the other half goes to the ambassador, whereas others don't work as domestic servants at all but with such designation in their passport they pay huge sums to the ambassador who arranged that for them.

It is abundantly clear that certain groups of domestic workers are cheaper to engage in the host country that to send all the way from Ghana. If Ghana were a country of rules and laws there would be clear guidelines on this and more importantly they will be enforced. I am still looking for an answer to the question posed as the title.

CAN AMBASSADORS CHARGE THEIR DOMESTIC WORKERS FOR RENT AND UTILITIES?

I think it is ethically and morally wrong (not to talk about professional conduct) for these guys to exploit their domestic workers the way they do because our ambassadors don't pay rent and they have no right to charge these poor guys who work for them rent.

Ben Ofosu-Appiah, Tokyo, Japan.
The writer is a senior political and social analyst and also a policy strategist based in Tokyo, Japan. . He welcomes your comments.


Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.

Columnist: Ofosu-Appiah, Ben