UAE ambassador to Ireland to be replaced

Khalid Nasser Rashid Lootah, who kept domestic servants ‘as slaves’, ordered to pay €240,000 by Employment Appeals Tribunal

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) ambassador to Ireland, who was found to have kept three domestic servants "as slaves", is to be replaced.

Khalid Nasser Rashid Lootah will be transferred to the UAE ministry of foreign affairs. He will be replaced by Saeed Mohammed Ali Al Shamsi.

The announcement was made by the UAE President Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan last month as part of a reshuffling of his diplomatic staff.

It was taken before the decision was made by the Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT) to award €80,000 each to three women who had worked for the ambassador.

The tribunal heard the three Filipino women worked 15 hours a day, seven days a week for a monthly salary of €170. Their passports were also taken from them.

Mr Lootah was recalled to Abu Dhabi by the country's foreign ministry following the outcome of the case. He cited diplomatic immunity for his decision not to turn up to the tribunal.

A statement from the country’s ministry of foreign affairs said it was aware of the case and “takes this matter seriously and accordingly has decided to recall him to Abu Dhabi while the Ministry of Foreign Affairs investigates the issue further, in line with existing procedures”.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan has called on the UAE authorities to pay the €240,000 awarded to the women by the tribunal. There was no response from the UAE ministry yesterday as it was a national holiday in the emirates.

The recalling of the ambassador has made many of the newspapers in the Arab region including the two largest English language newspapers in the area, The Khaleej Times and Arabian Business.

The Department of Foreign Affairs has sent out guidelines to all embassies based in Ireland setting out the criteria for employing domestic staff. The DFA issued the guidelines because of concerns that embassies were flouting the employment laws in Ireland and claiming diplomatic immunity.

Under the terms , diplomats are “expected to demonstrate respect for Irish laws and good employment practice”.

Both employer and employee are expected to have an agreed undertaking of the terms and conditions of employment, in line with Irish employment law, signed by both the employers and the employee.

All diplomats are expected to keep detailed records of the starting and finishing times, hours worked each day and leave time.

All employers should ensure that appropriate social security provisions are made for their employee.

The conventions of diplomatic immunity are quite wide ranging and make it problematic to bring a case against an embassy or an ambassador.

Immigration lawyer Tom Coughlan said he believed that the Department of Foreign Affairs guidelines will be "entirely unenforceable".

"Except as a domestic courtesy, I can't see how they can be enforceable once the Irish Government accepts the credentials of the diplomatic agents."

He said Ireland might be able to get around the issue of diplomatic immunity by insisting that it will not accept the credentials of an ambassador unless he or she signs up to Irish employment laws.

“We don’t have accept to somebody in, but we could find ourselves friendless in the market though with no ambassadors very quickly.”

Mr Coughlan said it could be possible to pursue judgments against the UAE ambassador by going after assets not attached to the embassy. A similar move was made against Argentina in the United States.