Administrative detention ‘overused’ in labour cases, activists warn

Originally a measure for authorities to resort to for “security reasons”, administrative detention is “becoming the norm” when dealing with guest workers with labour-related problems, activists said.

The law gives administrative governors the “absolute” power to enforce detention without time restrictions, an authority legal and human rights experts say results in “abuse of power”, particularly towards “vulnerable” guest workers who lack the knowledge and means to defend themselves.

“As a judge, the law specifies the period by which I can refer people to administrative detention, and I can only extend that by stating my reasons to the court, but administrative governors have the full authority to practise this right,” said Amman Prosecutor General Rami Tarawneh.

He made his remarks at a roundtable discussion held by Tamkeen Fields for Aid, a non-governmental legal-aid centre that works for the protection and promotion of human rights.

Today, there are 240 foreign workers detained in Jordan, according to Tamkeen Executive Director Linda Kalash.
“We have documented cases of guest workers who have been detained for more than one year pending the decision to deport them,” noted lawyer Hussein Omari, who specialises in the rights of illegal workers.

He cited Article 37 of the Residence and Foreign Affairs Law, which grants the Interior Ministry the authority to deport any foreigner based on the recommendations of the Public Security Department director, as a “dangerous article that does not comply with human rights principles”.

“Under this article, guest workers have to remain in detention until they are deported. Sometimes the inability to secure the ticket price to return to their countries delays their deportation for years,” noted Omari.

Participants at the meeting suggested that the authorities cooperate further with NGOs, which could cover the expenses of guest workers’ return tickets to speed up the deportation process.

Kalash charged that administrative detention is becoming an “arbitrary and routine practice”, costing the country “a lot of money that can be otherwise utilised to renovate schools and infrastructure”.

“A detainee costs the country JD750 a month and yet it is the first measure taken against guest workers. Labour cases should not lead to detention. A person should not be detained for not going to work,” she told The Jordan Times.

Officials from the Public Security Department, its human trafficking unit and the Labour Ministry attended the meeting, along with representatives from the embassies of the Philippines and Indonesia.

They all highlighted their views on administrative detention.

Participants agreed on the need to establish shelters to accommodate detainees and activate the law that allows filing lawsuits against administrative governors who abuse their power.