Sunday, December 28, 2008

Sri Lankans celebrate Christmas in Doha

CHRISTIANS from Sri Lanka celebrated Christmas at their embassy in Doha yesterday.More than 500 Christians and people of other faiths joined the celebrations, organised by SriLankan Co-ordination Committee and the embassy.Sri Lankan Ambassador Vijaysiri Padukkage reminded the gathering of the importance of the occasion and thanked Qatar authorities for providing opportunities for people of different faiths to gather on such occasions. At the meeting, participants sang Christmas carols and “Santa Claus” gave away gifts to children.Vicar of Doha's Catholic Church of Lady of the Rosary Fr Tomasito Veneracion thanked the ambassador and the community for hosting the gathering.Several members of Sri Lankan forums attended the celebrations. Stanley Fernando of the Sri Lankan Catholic Church was the main coordinator of the function.

Hong Kong flights caught in staff bonus rift

Sri Lankan News.NetSunday 28th December, 2008
Hong Kong airline flights were severely affected on the weekend when more than 500 airport ground staff walked off the job.The staff members were striking over a cut in their annual bonus. While the strike lasted for only three hours on Saturday, major delays occurred, affecting 83 flights.Some passengers complained they had to wait for at least two hours to collect their bags.The industrial action took place when an airport based company refused to drop their decision to scrap the annual performance-based bonus for their 3,000 staff.The bonus had normally meant another one month's salary to recipients.Some workers said as the company had made a good profit during the year, it was unfair to cut the bonus simply because of worry about the upcoming economic situation.

Qatar joins international migration body

Sunday, December 28, 2008-->Web posted at: 12/28/2008 6:0:6Source ::: THE PENINSULA
DOHA: The State of Qatar, represented by a delegation comprising officials from the Ministry of Labour and the Ministry of Interior, took part in the 96th meeting of the International Organisation for Migration (IOM). The organisation approved Qatar’s joining of the body on December 12 amid praise and welcome by the organisation’s member states due to the effectiveness of Qatar’s participation at international fora.
The Swiss-base organisation was established in 1951 and is being supported by its 120 member states, in addition to 20 observer members such as Iran, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan and Qatar.

Tsunami Victims Were Remembered

By Ramesh Mathews
SRI Lankans in Qatar gathered at their embassy to remember the victims of tsunami that lashed the island nation on December 26, 2004.They observed silence in remembrance of the victims.Besides Ambassador Vijaysiri Padukkage, embassy officials and representatives of community forums attended the gathering that the mission held in association with Sri Lankan co-ordination committee (SLCC), comprising members of various forums. Sri Lankans of different faiths attended the meeting. Lanka Lions, Sri Lankan Majlis, Wakrah Sports Club, Sri Lankan Quantity Surveyors Association, Sri Lankan Community Benevolent Fund and Sri Lankan Business Council are members of the SLCC.Embassy official Tharma Kulansingham and chief co-ordinator of SLCC community representative Nimal Tudewatta were among others who spoke at the meeting.The ambassador said Sri Lanka had overcome heavy challenges to complete the rehabilitation of the living victims of the tsunami. He said Sri Lanka had already completed more than 90% of the rehabilitation work and the world bodies had acknowledged the efforts Sri Lanka had made in this direction. A Sri Lankan embassy official said the remembrance meeting was also held at Sri Lankan missions worldwide.Nearly 2mn Sri Lankans affected by the tsunami had been beneficiaries through 223 tsunami recovery projects carried out during the last four years by the Sri Lanka Red Cross Society and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, according to a report from the country.By the first quarter of 2009, nearly 33,000 houses would be built with the Red Cross funding. This amounts to 27% of the 120,000 houses that were damaged or destroyed, the report said. The island republic had reported at least 40,000 deaths in the devastating tragedy that struck South East Asia including parts of the Indian states of Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Union territory of Andaman & Nicobar Islands.Among the victims was a Sri Lankan infant boy from Doha, who had gone for a vacation with his parents.

Tsunami Victims Were Remembered

By Ramesh Mathews
SRI Lankans in Qatar gathered at their embassy to remember the victims of tsunami that lashed the island nation on December 26, 2004.They observed silence in remembrance of the victims.Besides Ambassador Vijaysiri Padukkage, embassy officials and representatives of community forums attended the gathering that the mission held in association with Sri Lankan co-ordination committee (SLCC), comprising members of various forums. Sri Lankans of different faiths attended the meeting. Lanka Lions, Sri Lankan Majlis, Wakrah Sports Club, Sri Lankan Quantity Surveyors Association, Sri Lankan Community Benevolent Fund and Sri Lankan Business Council are members of the SLCC.Embassy official Tharma Kulansingham and chief co-ordinator of SLCC community representative Nimal Tudewatta were among others who spoke at the meeting.The ambassador said Sri Lanka had overcome heavy challenges to complete the rehabilitation of the living victims of the tsunami. He said Sri Lanka had already completed more than 90% of the rehabilitation work and the world bodies had acknowledged the efforts Sri Lanka had made in this direction. A Sri Lankan embassy official said the remembrance meeting was also held at Sri Lankan missions worldwide.Nearly 2mn Sri Lankans affected by the tsunami had been beneficiaries through 223 tsunami recovery projects carried out during the last four years by the Sri Lanka Red Cross Society and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, according to a report from the country.By the first quarter of 2009, nearly 33,000 houses would be built with the Red Cross funding. This amounts to 27% of the 120,000 houses that were damaged or destroyed, the report said. The island republic had reported at least 40,000 deaths in the devastating tragedy that struck South East Asia including parts of the Indian states of Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Union territory of Andaman & Nicobar Islands.Among the victims was a Sri Lankan infant boy from Doha, who had gone for a vacation with his parents.

Firms Can’t Use Article 120 to Avoid Paying Workers’ Dues

ABU DHABI - Firms are not allowed to invoke Article 120 of the Labour Law to terminate the services of workers without clearing their financial dues and end-of-services benefits, said a senior official at the Ministry of Labour (MoL).
Mohammad Al Zaabi, Director of Disputes Department in the MoL, told Khaleej Times on Thursday that the companies are not allowed to do that because the law defines specific cases of termination under Article 120.
Workers, whose services are terminated for no fault or the cases listed in Article 120, should lodge complaints with the Labour Office.
The provision can be applied only in the case of workers who have indulged in gross irregularities.
But some companies, especially in the construction sector, are reportedly invoking this provision to terminate workers in order to avoid paying their legitimate compensation and dues.
The employees would even find it difficult to get alternative employment if they are terminated under this provision.
“In such cases, the ministry will investigate the complaints and if the employers are at fault, we will report to the top officials to fix the penalties,” said Al Zaabi.
If the violators refuse to settle the cases and pay the workers their dues as per the articles of normal terminations, the ministry will refer the complaint to the court, he added.
Meanwhile, workers, whose cases are referred to court, are allowed a six-month temporary work permit from the MoL if they find jobs in other companies.
A Dubai-based contracting company in Jebel Ali had recently issued termination notices to 41 people under this provision.
Khaleej Times is in possession of the general notice, but the company has sought time till Sunday next to give its side of the story.
It remains to be seen how many employees will file a complaint with the MoL.
When Khaleej Times tried to speak to some of those who had received termination notices, they insisted that their names be not published.
Most of them were apprehensive that such a step could make their position more insecure even when they are seeking alternative employments.
They were also worried that the companies might delay or deny their dues, if they resort to legal recourse.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Lankan migrant workers benefit from insurance

Daily News

A new insurance scheme for the benefit of over 350,000 Sri Lankan migrant workers who are employed in Kuwait, will be implemented by the Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment (SLBFE) in collaboration with the Kuwait Insurance Company for Migrant Workers, commencing January 01, 2009. A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in this regard was signed by Chairman, SLBFE Kingsley Ranawaka in Colombo recently.
According to the new insurance scheme, any Lankan worker in Kuwait, who becomes disabled or in the event of his/her death will be paid Rs. 1.2 million as compensation from January 01. All Lankan workers presently in Kuwait or others who seek employment through the Bureau channels in the future are entitled to this scheme. According to Bureau statistics, out of 350,000 Lankans in Kuwait over 225,000 are women.
Speaking to the Sunday Observer the Bureau, Chairman said that in addition, the workers are entitled to obtain medical facilities and each worker has been insured for Rs. 500,000.
"They also can seek legal assistance from lawyers free of charge for their employment problems and numerous other harassments faced by them at any moment they need. All expenses will be borne by the SLBFE through the Kuwait Embassy," he added.

Shady operators dupe Lankans in Doha

Some Sri Lankans in Doha are falling prey to illegal and unscrupulous financial institutions back home. The institutions solicit deposits promising high returns and eventually gobble them up.
The victims are highly critical of the regulatory authorities at home for not acting tough against the shady operators.
One Sri Lankan resident asking not to be identified said he had fallen victim to a nasty financial scam at home and lost his hard-earned savings. He was bitterly critical of the regulators for allowing such shady operators to "flourish" in the country.
Sri Lanka is experiencing increasing numbers of financial scandals, making deposits, especially in unauthorised financial institutions, highly risky, several Sri Lankans told the Peninsula newspaper.
"I advise fellow Sri Lankans to trust only recognised banks back home with their deposits," said Mohamed Faizer, a Doha based accountant. Many Sri Lankans in Doha are depositing their money in various financial institutions at home in a misguided way, trusting those individuals and institutions who may be undermining or bypassing the rules and regulations of the country with promises of extraordinary yield.
"There have been several financial scandals in the recent past and no action has been taken," said M Jameel, a Sri Lankan resident.
The Peninsula

Thursday, December 25, 2008

FEB stern on Foreign Employment Agencies

From DM
By Hemanthi Guruge

The Chairman of the Foreign Employment Bureau(FEB) has asked all the foreign employment agencies to forward statements regarding the salary scheme under which the janitorial workers are sent abroad. Some of the agencies have already forwarded their statements to this effect.

The Chairman of the Foreign Employment Bureau Kinsley Ranawaka told the Daily Mirror that stern action would be taken against the relevant foreign employment agency, if an employee returns the country with a salary issue..

Meanwhile, the Foreign Employment Bureau has decided to temporarily suspend sending Sri Lankan maids to Kuwait as janitorial workers, he said. He added that the move follows the failure by Kuwait employers to pay salaries to the maids as agreed upon by the recruitment agencies before their departure.

Several Sri Lankan workers have lodged complaints against their employers in Kuwait. At least, six agencies are reported to have been involved in illegal business as well.

Sri Lankans in Dubai seek visa cancellation

Thousands of laid off construction workers including some Sri Lankans have applied for visa cancellations in Dubai.

"Thousands of applications for visa cancellations are already being processed by the ministry," said a UAE Ministry of Labour official who asked not to be named as he was not authorized to speak to the media.

Hemandha Kahawalage, labour welfare officer at the Sri Lankan embassy said, "As of now, we are conducting a survey about the matter and we don't have the exact figures but around 200 Sri Lankan workers have approached the missions here for different cases within a month, which include cases of termination and of those who intend to go back to Sri Lanka. We are also in close contact with our government regarding the current situation here."

The Indian Consul General, Venu Rajamony said, "We are monitoring the situation now and we don't have any figure and if needed, we will come up with a plan. We are also keeping the Indian government informed about the developments taking place in the labour sector here."

Bangladeshi ambassador to the UAE, Nazmul Quaunine said, "We have been receiving a number of Bangladeshi expatriates particularly at our consulate in Dubai who were seeking documentation for them so that they can return to their country."

The Bangladeshi ambassador said this may be due to various reasons such as termination and the skyrocketing cost of living in the UAE.

"Since such a situation started in the UAE, we have witnessed a slowdown of workers' arrivals from Bangladesh to the UAE. Of late, we do not have exact figures of how many Bangladeshies are sacked. Most of them are turning up at the consulate in Dubai, only a few came to the embassy," Quaunine stated.

Honourary president of the Kerala Social Centre, K.B. Murali said, "We know of only a few people who were asked by their company to go back home for a long holiday as the company halted some projects. The workers were told that they would be approached when needed. Mostly people were not terminated from their jobs but sent back for holidays. The majority of cases were reported in Dubai while the Abu Dhabi job market is stable.

(Khaleej Times)

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Lankan group holds symposium

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Wednesday, December 24, 2008-->Web posted at: 12/24/2008 4:1:3Source ::: THE PENINSULA
DOHA: Sri Lankan Majlis Qatar (SLMQ), a socio-cultural organisation in Doha, hosted its annual symposium at Al Ghazal Club. Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to Qatar, Vijesiri Padukkage, was the chief guest at the event, which was sponsored by Qtel.
Dr Shaukat Chandna delivered the keynote speech on Building Bridges of Conviction. He thrilled the audience with his explanation of the word ‘BRIDGES’ — Bonding, Reaching out, Initiative, Dream, Grab the opportunity, Enthusiasm, and Smile.
Ambassador Padukkage’s wife released a souvenir as part of the event. The president of SLMQ, Ameerudeen Moulana, briefed the gathering on SLMQ’s projects and its activities in Qatar and Sri Lanka.
Moulana mentioned that many inscriptions discovered in Sri Lanka show that there were Arab settlements in Sri Lanka in pre-Islamic times. The Sinhala kings considered the Arab settlements favourably on account of the revenue that they brought through their contacts overseas in trade and politics. Since then, they had become an inseparable part of Sri Lankan society and culture, he said.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Lankan Mission in Singapore advises prospective domestic workers

The High Commission of Sri Lanka in Singapore has received a number of complaints from Sri Lankan housemaids, who are employed in Singapore relating mainly to the payment of wages and working conditions as well as compelling them to be involved in illicit activities. Housemaids account for approximately 15,000 out of the total expatriate Sri Lankan population of about 23,000 in Singapore.
A significant number of housemaids have neither been registered with the Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment (SLBFE) nor secured employment in Singapore, through SLBFE licensed employment agencies.
Many of these housemaids face problems with their employers, since they have not been adequately briefed by the employment agencies on their duties, emoluments and prevailing rules and regulations in Singapore, governing domestic workers. As a large number of the housemaids report to the Sri Lankan High Commission without any details of their employers or employment agencies, the Mission finds it extremely difficult to assist them.
The High Commission has received complaints that unscrupulous recruitment agents in Sri Lanka have levied exorbitant sums of money from prospective housemaids, making false promises of high salaries and brought them to Singapore on visit visas, in contravention of Singaporean immigration regulations.
The Sri Lanka High Commission in Singapore strongly advises all prospective Sri Lankans wishing to secure domestic employment in Singapore to ensure that they register themselves with the SLBFE and also follow the mandatory training programme conducted by the Bureau, prior to their departure.
Housemaids who have received such training and an orientation on the working conditions in Singapore are better equipped to handle the household chores assigned by their employers and also able to command higher salaries and perks, compared to the untrained housemaids.
Further, they will be covered by the insurance scheme of the SLBFE and would also benefit from the protection afforded by relevant Singapore government regulations governing domestic workers.

Fake foreign agency raided

By Hemanthi Guruge
The Special Investigation Unit of the Foreign Employment Bureau (FEB) has raided a fake foreign employment agency under the name of ‘Siyapatha’ in Kurunegala, the Bureau said.
Bureau Chairman Kinsley Ranawaka told the Daily Mirror, several passports and documents were taken into the custody by the investigating officials.
He said this Foreign Employment Agency had been involving in conducting famous marriage proposal service through newspaper advertisements.
The owner of this agency, had been found guilty for at least two earlier occasions for similar type of cases, he said.

400 job agencies on the mat

by Dilanthi Jayamanne
The Sri Lankan Bureau of Foreign Employment has served notice on over 400 bogus foreign employment agencies this year. The Bureau has already initiated legal action against about one hundred agencies.
The SLBFE said that raids were conducted on four more bogus foreign employment agencies in Colombo and the provinces.
One of the raided agencies situated in Kurunegala had deceived a large group of persons promising them overseas employment. Officials said that the bureau had ordered the raid after receiving over 200 petitions from duped overseas job seekers. They acknowledged that although the agency had been fined on a previous occasion and ordered to shut down it had continued operations. They said that for want of supervision by the bureau and law enforcement authorities the agency had continued to dupe more people.
The sources said that the person behind the Kurunegala job agency was among the persons who recently received a Central Bank directive not to accept deposits following the busting of the mega Sakvithi scam.

Body of Sri Lankan found in Landslide

The body of the fifth victim who perished in the Bukit Antarabangsa landslide, a Sri Lankan, was detected about 50 metres from her employer’s house, the late Dr Yogeswari, who was also killed in the Dec 6 incident.

While confirming the find, Selangor Police Chief Datuk Khalid Abu Bakar said the Fire and Rescue personnel discovered the maid’s body, known as Mary, at about 6.30pm.
At press time, the rescue team were still trying to retrieve the victim’s body from the rubble.
The 4am landslide which destroyed 14 bungalows in Taman Bukit Mewah, Bukit Antarabangsa, also claimed four lives. The four victims were Shaiful Khas Datuk Shahrudin, 20, Dr S Yogeswari, 40, accountant Eng Yee Peng, 30, and an Indonesian maid, Surinah, in her 30s.(New Straits Times)

Lankan janitorial workers to Kuwait suspended

The Foreign Employment Bureau has decided to suspend sending Sri Lankan maids to Kuwait for janitorial work. Deputy General Manager of the Foreign Employment Bureau L. K Ruhunuge said that the move follows the failure by Kuwaiti employers to pay the salary to the maids as previously agreed upon with the recruitment agencies. Mr Ruhunuge also said that the several Sri Lankan workers have lodged complaints against their employers in Kuwait. Investigations have been launched into the activities of at least six such agencies. (HG)

Twelfth anniversary of Malta boat tragedy commemorated

A commemoration meeting to remember those who died in the Malta boat tragedy where 289 persons including 70 Sri Lankans drowned in the Malta-Sicily channel in 1996, will take place at the Bambalapitiya Hindu Ladies College Hall tomorrow at 11 am. 300 candles will be lit and a video film will also be shown at the meeting.
An Indian delegation comprising of Balwant Singh Khera, Chairman Malta Boat Tragedy Probe Mission, two other office bearers, Gurvinda Singh and Kuldeep Singh met Social Services Minister Douglas Devananda, at his office on Sunday.
Malta Boat Tragedy Probe Mission (Sri Lanka Chapter), Chairman, M.K.P. Chandralal also participated at this meeting.
Mr. Kehera briefed the Minister on the human tragedy which occurred in Malta-Sicily Channel on December 25, 1996. Out of 565 young men on board the ship Yiohan, around 289 persons including 170 Indians, 70 Sri Lankans, 33 Pakistanis and rest from other South Asian countries were drowned.
He also said that an Italian court has sentenced the captain of the Yiohan ship to 30 year-imprisonment for multiple murder.
With the efforts of Italian senator Tana de Zulueta, the Italian Government has provided funds to recover the remains of the victims and the ship and set up a monument there. The delegation requested the Minister
01. To take up this case with the International Agencies at the UNO and other associated Governments.
02. Release status report regarding this episode and investigation done so far by the Sri Lankan government to the public at large and especially to the concerned parents.
03. Charge local agents and conspirators involved in this episode and debar them from continuing such nefarious activities.
04. Release a list of the dead victims and issue with death certificates to them and give substantial relief to the affected parents.
05. Co-ordinate with the Indian, Pakistan and Italian government and the Malta Boat Tragedy Probe Mission in this connection. All family members and well wishers are welcome to attend this meeting. Further details could be obtained from the organizers, on - 0714020845

Malaysia landslide: Body of Lankan found

The body of the fifth victim who perished in the Bukit Antarabangsa landslide, a Sri Lankan, was detected yesterday about 50 metres from her employer’s house, the late Dr Yogeswari, who was also killed in the Dec 6 incident.
While confirming the find, Selangor Police Chief Datuk Khalid Abu Bakar said the Fire and Rescue personnel discovered the maid’s body, known as Mary, last evening. At press time, the rescue team were still trying to retrieve the victim’s body from the rubble. The landslide which destroyed 14 bungalows in Taman Bukit Mewah, Bukit Antarabangsa, also claimed four lives. The four victims were Shaiful Khas Datuk Shahrudin, 20, Dr S Yogeswari, 40, accountant Eng Yee Peng, 30, and an Indonesian maid, Surinah, in her 30s. (New Strait Times)

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Mideast should act against maid abuse: HWR

Wed Dec 17, 2008 11:42am GMT

DUBAI (Reuters) - Governments in the Middle East should act quickly in 2009 to fulfill promises to protect the rights of migrant women, a U.S.-based rights group said on Wednesday.
Millions of women from Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Ethiopia and the Philippines work as maids in Arab states, many of which exclude domestic workers from protection in their labor laws.
Several countries including Jordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Qatar are in the process of drafting or debating changes to extend protection to domestic workers, but these have yet to be finalized.
"It is encouraging that governments are finally considering serious reforms, but these proposals mean nothing until the new protections are in place and being enforced," Nisha Varia, deputy director of the women's rights division at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement.
"Each day of delay leaves migrant domestic workers open to abuses such as unpaid wages, being locked in their workplaces, and to physical and sexual abuse."
Human Rights Watch said abuses against domestic workers include 18-hour workdays with no days off, physical confinement in the workplace, denial of food, lack of payment for months or years, physical and sexual abuse.
The group urged all governments to ratify the U.N. Migrant Workers Convention, which guarantees migrants' human rights and promises state protection against abuse by employers, agents and public officials.
Human Rights Watch also said that countries of origin should do more to create employment options so that women are not forced to migrate, and to monitor the recruitment process.
(Writing by Lin Noueihed, Editing by Dominic Evans)

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Missing maid’s family want search to continue

. Thanarajah (pic) the employer of the Sri Lankan maid missing since the Bukit Antarabangsa landslide on Dec 6, has been providing updates to her husband and three children, who are located at a mountain village 110km from Colombo.
“I don’t want to be the person who tells them that she is not alive until the police tell me that first,” Thanarajah said.
He said that the maid’s family found it difficult to accept that the police had stopped the search as they believed that they had the resources to continue.
Thanarajah said the maid’s family wanted the search to continue.
Thanarajah believes that the maid is still trapped within the rubble of the landslide.
According to him, the police may have been looking in the wrong place even after his brother and neighbours pointed out the possible location.
Thanarajah said that he hoped the police would widen the search area and start looking a little further from where his original house was located.
Thanarajah also claimed that his bags and jewellery box were ransacked and his children’s clothes hung at the gutter after he came back from his wife’s funeral.


Kuwait wants health office in Lankan embassy

The Kuwait Ministry of Interior (MoI) is planning to ask its health counterpart here to establish health offices at the Kuwaiti embassies in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India and Philippines due to the increasing number of medically unfit workers from these countries, reports Al-Rai quoting sources.
Affirming some workers from the above-mentioned countries were found to have liver problems, sources said and sponsors wait for the arrival of these workers for a long time only to face problems when the Kuwaiti authorities find them unfit to work.
Sources added the establishment of health offices in the Kuwaiti embassies in these countries will reduce the chances of sending unfit workers to Kuwait as these offices will be tasked to check on the medical condition of workers prior to their arrival in the country.
Meanwhile, head of the organizing committee for the First International Conference for Surgery, Dr Abbas Ramadan, said Sunday that the conference is held to match the keenness of Kuwaiti surgeons to keep up with international health developments.
Dr Ramadan told the press that the conference’s activities were to be launched yesterday, in a reflection of the Ministry of Health’s keenness to develop medical services in the country.
He clarified that there are many highly experienced Kuwaiti surgeons in the field of neurology, adding that holding such conferences on an international level will help develop health services in Kuwait, and add to the Kuwaiti surgeon’s level of expertise.
Dr Ramadan said the conference will also enlighten Kuwaiti surgeons on recent research and techniques in the field of medicine.
The conference will be held under the patronage of Minister of Health, Ali Al-Barrak, and is scheduled over two days with the participation of Arab and foreign experts in the field. (Arab Times)

Workers to Kuwaiti to be screened

The Kuwaiti Interior Ministry will ask the Health Ministry to open health offices designed to examine incoming domestic helpers from four countries including Sri Lanka before arriving in Kuwait.
The offices will be opened inside the Kuwaiti embassies of Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India and the Philippines.
The purpose of the offices is to screen potential workers who may be carrying diseases like hepatitis. According to the Ministry of Interior, some sponsors bring domestic helpers into Kuwait who are infected with certain diseases.
The sponsors are then asked to deport the individuals back to their home countries; however, many sponsors manage to evade such responsibility by maintaining that they do not know the whereabouts of the individuals they brought in.
Kuwait Times

Friday, December 12, 2008

Lankan jailed for molesting woman in UK

A Sri Lankan illegal immigrant who molested a woman with learning difficulties in Bristol, UK, has been jailed for two years and 9 months.
Mohamed Hamid approached the 28-year-old and took her to a quiet open space in Kingswood where he forced her to the ground and abused her, Bristol Crown Court heard.
The shaken victim was later found alone, distressed and upset.
Hamid, 44, who was living at Robertson Road in Easton at the time, pleaded guilty to sex assaults.
Imposing sentence Judge Carol Hagen told him: "The psychological impact on (your victim) cannot be estimated.
"What can be said is that it is profound and dramatic and will have a long lasting effect.
"This was not a fleeting moment case, it involved you taking her to a place where no people were, which must have increased her fear and there you detained her for sufficient time for you to be able to commit the two offences which you have pleaded guilty to."
The judge recommended Hamid to be deported to his native Sri Lanka after he'd served his sentence and she ordered him to sign the sex offenders register for life.
Ian Fenny, prosecuting, told the court the woman had a significant learning disability which would have been "patently obvious" to anyone regardless of their culture or ethnicity.
He said around 6pm on August 7 last year the woman came to the attention of some people in Kingswood who found her to be in a distressed state.
She described what happened to her and the police were called in to investigate.
The victim told police Hamid had approached her, they'd gone to a quiet spot and he forced her to the ground and abused her.
Ramin Pakrooh, defending, told the court his client suffered from a depressive illness which had psychotic features.
He said: "He thinks people are saying things about him and being remanded in custody has been a particularly difficult time for him because he is isolated regarding his language and psychiatric condition.
"He has suffered bullying and difficulties from other prisoners."
Mr Pakrooh added that his client had a wife and children in Sri Lanka and when deported from the UK he would arrive home without a passport, which would cause further problems for him.

Lankan dies in car crash

By Ramesh Mathew
A 44-year-old Sri Lankan woman was killed when the car she was travelling in was involved in an accident at the Sealine beach area in Mesaieed on Tuesday evening. The victim was identified as N K D S Jayasiri (Nambuka), who had arrived in Qatar only four days before the accident.Jayasiri was visiting her brother who is employed with Qatar Airways, a community source said.Jayasiri, who hails from the outskirts of Colombo, leaves behind her husband and two children.At least five others were injured in the accident and of them one is critical, he said. Two of the victims are children. The accident occurred when a four-wheel drive vehicle hit the car in which the group was travelling.Jayasiri’s body was sent home yesterday.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Sri Lankan fishermen in judicial custody

Eleven Sri Lankan fishermen, who were arrested on Monday by the Coast Guard off the Andhra Pradesh coast, were remanded to judicial custody in Chennai. A Coast Guard ship patrolling had intercepted two fishing boats. Reports had earlier said that more than 50 Sri Lankan fishermen were arrested after crossing into Indian waters over the past two days. - Hindu

Search for Lankan maid called off

The search for the missing Sri Lankan maid at Bukit Antarabangsa, Kuala Lumpur has been called off. The stop order was given at 2pm yesterday after sonar equipment and a dog unit scanning a five-metre radius area around the house came up with nothing.
Lourdes Mary is the maid to Dr N. Yogeswari who died in the tragedy.

Selangor police chief Deputy Comm Datuk Khalid Abu Bakar told a press conference that the chance of finding the body without excavating the entire area was slim.
He said it was likely the woman was dead.
DCP Khalid said a small team would be stationed at the site to assist affected residents retrieve valuables and important documents from their homes.

The Star

Abused Lankans return from Middle East

By Jamila Najmuddin
A group of 54 Sri Lankan workers from Middle East including those who had been abused by their employers returned to Sri Lanka yesterday.
Out of the 54 workers, two were female housemaids while 52 were male workers who were stranded in Saudi Arabia without a salary and were subjected to abuse and sexual harassment by their employers.
“Most of these employees were working under very harsh conditions in the Middle East.
Many of them were also abused. After they had been reunited with their family members, the Bureau will launch a full scale inquiry into each of their complaints,” the Foreign Employment Bureau official said.
The official quoting one of the workers said he had returned to the country without a year’s salary and every time he had reminded from his employer about his salary, he was beaten and verbally abused.
One of the two women housemaids said she had been sexually harassed by her employer due to which she had fled her workplace.
The 54 workers who returned home yesterday morning were only a few people who had suffered at the hands of their employers in the Middle East.
It is due to this situation the government was now looking at countries such as Korea to send migrant workers for employment, the official said.
According to a report released by Human Rights Watch last month, many migrant and domestic workers still face abuse and exploitation in Middle Eastern and Asian countries because governments had failed to adopt measures needed to protect them.
HRW said while millions of workers from countries including Indonesia, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, and Nepal were domestic workers in countries throughout the Middle East and Asia, most countries excluded domestic workers from protection under their labour laws, leaving domestic workers little remedy against exploitative working conditions.

Slavery, though legally abolished, remains widespread: UN

Slavery may have been legally abolished around the world, but it remains "a widespread and deeply rooted component of contemporary life," ranging from human trafficking to child labour to sexual servitude to bonded service, according to the first-ever comparative analysis published by the United Nations.
"If slavery has been legally prohibited, but its more heinous characteristics have continued under a variety of different designations, or through numerous illicit activities, on what grounds can we say that slavery has effectively come to an end?" the report Entitled Unfinished Business, asks, calling for strengthened sanctions and an end to impunity .
"If enslavement remains a fundamental issue in the absence of official recognition, on what grounds can we meaningfully distinguish chattel slavery from analogous forms of behaviour?" Commissioned by the UN Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Slave Route project and prepared by Joel Quirk of the Wilberforce Institute for the study of Slavery and Emancipation in the United Kingdom, the survey aims to provide the basis for dialogue on how to address contemporary slavery and the enduring legacies of historical slave systems.

Four Sri Lankan Housemaids Stranded in Gaza

Thu, 2008-12-11 03:31
Gaza, Palestine, 11 December, ( Four Sri Lankan housemaids are stranded in Gaza as they are unable to leave due to closure of exit points by Israel and Egypt.
They along with their employers are facing immense difficulties due to shortages of food, medicine and fuel. In view of this situation they want to get back to Sri Lanka.
These housemaids had been working in Gaza for the last seven or eight years and they do not have proper work permits as the Palestinian National Authority has no power to extend visas or give work permits.
Sri Lanka’s Representative Office in Ramallah in Palestinian National Authority has extended the validity of their passports and appealed to Palestinian National Authority and Human Rights organizations to help but it appears that none of those organizations are in a position to get there housemaids out of Gaza.
Since the situation in Gaza is worsening day by day it has become necessary to evacuate these housemaids urgently.
- Asian Tribune –

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Sri Lanka expressed serious concern over workers held halve-starved by US military contractor in Iraq

Tue, 2008-12-09 15:29
Colombo, 09 December, ( Government has expressed deep concern over the plight of Sri Lankan workers languishing in Iraq. These workers are being employed by a US Military contractor and held against their wishes, halve-starved and under despicable conditions in warehouses and tents in Baghdad.Minister Keheliya Rambukawella told that it was deplorable and condemnable that Sri Lankans being held in such pitiable conditions by a US military contractor in Iraq.

Asian Tribune already reported quoting news sources, that about 1,000 Asian men from Sri Lanka, India, Nepal and Bangladesh who were hired by a Kuwaiti subcontractor to the U.S. military have been confined for as long as three months in windowless warehouses near the Baghdad airport without money or a place to work.
On 04 December, CNN in a special report from Iraqi capital Baghdad showed vividly the plight of the Asian workers who were promised work, but are partially starved with no money receiving handouts from Iraqi well wishers.
According to reports, it is Najlaa International Catering Services, a subcontractor to KBR, an engineering construction and services company, hired the men, who're from India, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.
Minister Keheliya Rambukawella Government’s spokesman for Defence and National Security and the Minister of Foreign Employment, Promotion and Welfare said that he was shocked and appalled when he heard the plight of the Sri Lankans held by US Military contractor in Iraq along with Indians, Nepalese and Bangladeshis half starved in poor living conditions in windowless warehouses and tents.
When Asian Tribune asked whether he has taken up this issue at least with US Ambassador based in Colombo, Sri Lanka, he said "Already I have brought this matter to the notice of Robert Blake, the US Ambassador in Colombo."
Minister Keheliya Rambukawella said, "Recently the American Ambassador in Colombo came and met me and he was talking about illegal migration. I brought this issue to him and told him of the news report about the plight of Sri Lankan’s who are languishing in Iraq and held against their wishes by the US Military contractor. I also pointed out to him that the alleged US Army contractor in Iraq is the one who recruited Sri Lankan workers through illegal channels."
The minister told Asian Tribune that he still waits for a response.
He said that what happen is that agents and subagents who are involved in the recruitment of Sri Lankans in Kuwait are all Sri Lankans.
He added that people who have gone to Kuwait, say about fifteen twenty years ago, are today the recruitment agents for the recruitment of Sri Lankans to that country.
"Recently I took steps to change the whole scenario of recruitment from Kuwait and I immediately started encountering lot of resistance from them. They are now on a slander campaign against me," he said
The minister expressed his doubts that those Sri Lankans who are presently in Kuwait must have been recruited by some unscrupulous recruitment agents in Kuwait.
"We are at present seriously investigating this issue," Minister Keheliya Rambukawella said.
- Asian Tribune -

Lanka may reopen mission in Iraq

By Leon Berenger
Sri Lanka is to re-open its diplomatic mission in war-torn Baghdad following reports that some 5,000 Sri Lankans had taken up illegal employment in that country, Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Hussein Bahila said yesterday.
He said the matter was being seriously debated at present in the face of increasing number of Sri Lankan job seekers entering that country.
Sri Lanka closed down its embassy in Baghdad when the US launched its war on Iraq in 2003, but it continued to maintain trade and diplomatic relations with Iraq, once the largest buyer of Sri Lankan tea.“We hope to start off with a consular division after carefully considering the security realities. Our main concern would be the safety of the staff,” Mr. Bahila said adding that the Iraqi government had also urged Sri Lanka to reopen the mission.
At present, Iraq maintains a consulate in Colombo. Despite a government ban on sending Sri Lankans to Iraq for employement, thousands of Sri Lankans have found their way into that country to work mainly in US military facilities after paying large fees to local job agents.

Iraq row triggers Foreign Bureau action

The Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment is to probe the activities of unscrupulous job agents found to have sent Sri Lankans illegally to war-torn Iraq. This move follows a tense stand-off in Baghdad last week between armed Iraqi guards and an undisclosed number of stranded Sri Lankans and others foreign nationals.
According to reports, the incident – the climax of a festering labour dispute – occurred when armed guards were called in to control a crowd of angry Sri Lankans and other foreign nationals who were resisting an attempt by an Arab recruiting agency to have them deported. The protestors had been falsely promised jobs within US military facilities. The Sri Lankans had paid agents in Colombo close to Rs. 300,000 to go to Iraq.
The armed Iraqi guards had fired shots into the air in a bid to bring the situation under control.According to reports, the Sri Lankans have been stranded in Baghdad for almost three months. They are accommodated in a run-down warehouse close to the airport; their living conditions are poor and the food they get inadequate.
The Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment deputy general manager L. K. Ruhunuge said every effort would be made to track down the recruiting agents who had swindled the Sri Lankans. He told The Sunday Times that the bureau was studying a list of agencies allegedly behind the multi-million-rupee racket involving the illegal recruitment of locals for employment in Iraq. “If proper evidence is established against these agencies, their licenses will be cancelled immediately, with no room for appeal,” Mr. Ruhunuge said.
The government has banned local manpower recruitment for Iraq, following worsening conditions in the country and reports of militant groups stepping up attacks on foreigners, especially those working for US interests.
A Foreign Ministry spokesperson said yesterday that the ministry was helpless in such a situation, because it had no official record of Sri Lankans based in Iraq. The only news it had about expatriate Sri Lankans in Iraq was what it learned from the media.
On October 19, The Sunday Times ran an exclusive report about the Iraqi jobs racket. It pointed out that the authorities, although aware of what was happening, can do little to help because those who ended up in Iraq left Sri Lanka on legitimate visas to such places as Dubai.

Bahrain defends naturalisation policy

By Habib Toumi, Bureau ChiefPublished: December 02, 2008, 23:25

Manama: Bahrain has granted nationality to 7,012 people in the last five years, the interior minister has said, denying claims of mass naturalisation.
People of Asian origin topped the list with 3,599 cases, followed by 2,240 Arabs, 1,095 Gulf nationals and 78 from other countries, according to the figures provided by Shaikh Rashid Bin Abdullah Al Khalifa in his reply to a question about the status of naturalisation in

"The cases include the children born to Bahraini mothers and foreign fathers, foreign women married to Bahraini men, people who were born in Bahrain, people who belong to Bahraini families, as well as humanitarian and social instances," Shaikh Rashid said. "There was no discrimination whatsoever against any sect, creed, colour or past nationality in the naturalisation process. We do have an honourable human rights record in the granting of the Bahraini citizenship and we fully respect all international covenants and treaties on this regard."
Violation of rights
But the minister said that he could not divulge the names of the newly-naturalised Bahrainis on the grounds that it would be a violation of their personal rights.
Al Wefaq, the largest parliamentary bloc, has been campaigning for imposing a limit on naturalisation cases, amid claims made by the opposition that Bahraini authorities have been using the process as a political tool to alter the country's demography and to win supporters mainly during the elections.
However, the government has repeatedly denied the claims, insisting that the granting of Bahraini nationality was governed by strict rules.
"We have set up a dedicated directorate to oversee the naturalisation process. Its tasks include screening the applications, running security checks, meeting the applicants and informing the royal court," Shaikh Rashid said.
Arabs must spend at least 15 years in Bahrain before they can apply for the citizenship, non-Arabs have to have been in the country for 25 years. Foreigners make up less than half of the 1,046,000 people who live in Bahrain, most of them are construction workers from India and Bangladesh, on short contracts

Monday, December 8, 2008

Foreign Minister opens new public relations bureau

The Foreign Affairs Ministry said it has taken steps to open a public relations bureau with the objective to meet the wider expectations of the public. It will function under the direct supervision of Minister Rohitha Bogollagama in order to ensure that the benefits could flow to the masses in a more secured and structured manner, the Ministry added. Foreign Ministry in a media communiquĆ© said Sri Lankan expatriates can meet Ambassadors or other embassy staff without prior appointments on public days, held weekly at the Sri Lanka missions abroad, once the Bureau is opened tomorrow. “Certain missions are kept open to provide half day services on alternate Saturdays and on Friday, which is observed as a public holiday in the Middle East, for the convenience of Sri Lankans working in those countries,” it stated. The Ministry is of the view that this move would also ensure a greater degree of follow up on the issues that may arise to the public. “Minster Bogollagama plans to hold weekly public days at this office, which will provide a rare opportunity not only for those who have faced difficulties in obtaining consular assistance, but also for other interested parties to get their problems sorted out with the intervention of the Minister,” the statement said.

Lankan maid still missing in Malaysian landslide

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec. 9 (Xinhua) -- Search and rescue work for a Sri Lankan maid, who was missing in Saturday's landslide tragedy, continued, local newspapers reported Tuesday.
The maid, Lourdes Mary in her 30s, currently was the only person still missing after the landslide struck a hillside international residential village early Saturday morning, which left four people dead and more than 10 others injured.

US probes Lankan illegal migrants in Iraq

The US military has started an investigation into whether 1,000 migrant workers, including some Sri Lankans, were smuggled illegally into Iraq only to suffer human rights violations after being kept in dingy warehouses near Baghdad airport for up to three months without pay, The Times reported.

Daily Miror 12/09

Friday, December 5, 2008

Sri Lankans in Iraq to be sent home

Asian men, including Sri Lankans, who have been living in warehouses near the Baghdad airport while awaiting promised jobs with a military subcontractor in Iraq are in line to be sent home, and they’re still not sure how they’ll be paid for their time in Iraq. Tensions have simmered throughout the week at a compound where about 1,000 men from Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Sri Lanka spoke out against their treatment by Najlaa International

Catering Services, the Kuwaiti company that hired them for work in Iraq.
Jobs didn’t materialize for the men, who have spent one to three months living in three pale blue warehouses packed with bunk beds along an airport side road.
Najlaa officials broke up a protest outside the warehouses Tuesday by pledging to pay the men. Marwan Rizk, the company’s chief executive, told McClatchy Newspapers that it will repatriate the workers and give them salaries for their time in the country.
Most of the men don’t want to return to their countries yet. They have paid middlemen about $2,000 to link them up with work and get them to Iraq. Many will owe on loans they took out to pay those fees.
About 400 were taken in buses to the airport on Wednesday to board planes for Dubai, a hub for flights in and out of Iraq. Flights weren’t available, and the men were returned to the warehouses.
Manoj Kodithuwakku, 28, of Sri Lanka said that about 160 were asked to get on buses again Thursday night, but they were holding out for stronger guarantees that Najlaa would pay them.
Najlaa is a subcontractor to KBR, a former Halliburton subsidiary that provides a range of services for the U.S. military in Iraq. Rizk told McClatchy this week that the company encountered unspecified obstacles to its contracts in Iraq that delayed the jobs it expected to give the men. He said Najlaa took care of the men’s basic health and safety needs.

Daily Miror 12/7

Migrants, too, have human rights

The myth according to which host countries are "victims" of migration needs to be challenged, as in fact their economies benefit from the exploitation of the migrants' work.

This was one of the points made at a meeting convened mid-November by the World Council of Churches (WCC) in New York City, in which speakers condemned the trend to treat migrants as commodities and stressed that migrants are human beings, created in the image of God.

Migration was the primary theme of the WCC's 16-21 November United Nations Advocacy Week, during which some 120 representatives of churches, ecumenical organizations and networks from all over the world discussed priorities and strategies for church advocacy at the UN and in their own countries.

Participants discussed the threats to the human rights of migrants, the theological imperative to welcome strangers and practical measures which churches can take.

While today's global economy is characterized by a growing mobility of goods and capital, many states put heavy restrictions on workers, particularly low-skilled labour coming into their territory. At the same time, poor living conditions oblige many people to leave their countries of origin.

Dr Theodor Rathgeber of the German Forum for Human Rights, who identified "asymmetrical economic conditions" and policies putting the global South at a disadvantage as main causes for this form of migration, challenged participants to fight the myth that host countries were "victims" of migration. Rather, their economies were benefiting from the exploitation of migrants, he explained.

Theology of diversity

Theologically, the need to care for the strangers was founded in the parable of the Good Samaritan. With this story about a foreigner rescuing a man forsaken by his countrymen and fellow believers, Christ rules out xenophobia, "as the unexpected help comes from the culturally and religiously other", summarized Niki Papageorgiou, who teaches Sociology of Religion at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece.

She added that the church has a "dynamic and radical" discourse on unconditionally welcoming the culturally and religiously other. However that discourse did not necessarily reach the believers. Churches needed to support their theology of diversity with actions at the local level, such as social services and dialogues between natives and migrants, Papageorgiou said.

John Nduna, director of the alliance of Christian aid agencies ACT International, voiced concern that refugees should not be confounded with economic migrants: "Refugees are forced to flee from their homes in order to save their lives. In most situations returning to their homeland is not an option."

Looking to a future in which climate change will unfold more and more, participants anticipated a sharp rise in displacement and ensuing conflicts as large areas for example in Bangladesh, the Nile delta and around the Sahara will become uninhabitable and millions of people will be pushed into areas traditionally occupied by other populations.

Rev. Baranite Kirata from Kiribati explained that people of this island nation in the Pacific had looked for work abroad already in the past, but always with a longing to come back home one day. With the atolls bound to disappear as the climate changes ever more significantly, his people experienced a feeling of spiritual loss, too, he said.

International Convention on Migrants' Rights

The rights of migrants were also the centre of visits which the participants of the advocacy week paid to missions of nine United Nations member states in order to promote the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families.

Of 39 countries that have ratified the convention so far, none is a host country in the developed world. "No other international convention shows such a split between developed and developing countries," said William Gois, regional coordinator of the Migrant Forum Asia.

None of the 27 missions representing European Union member states agreed to a meeting on the topic of the convention. Other missions reacted more positively to the ecumenical commitment to have the convention signed, ratified and implemented. For example the representative of the Philippines told his visitors he would like to cooperate with the WCC in finding more countries that are willing to put the convention on their agenda.

Seta Hadeshian, director of Diakonia and Social Justice at the Middle East Council of Churches, explained that the convention, which in the Middle East has been ratified only by Egypt, Libya, Morocco, and Turkey, was "the only available international instrument able to protect domestic workers" in the region.

The rights of millions of migrant female workers were therefore unprotected, she added, while abuse and violence against them were rampant, leading for example in Lebanon to numerous suicides and accidental deaths of women trying to flee from the house of their employer.

Challenging Christians to recognize the image of God in each stranger, Papageorgiou reminded them that "all people [are included] in the body of Christ."

WCC work on Migration

United Nations Advocacy Week of the WCC

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Sri Lanka: Housemaids Face the 'Gulf' Between Hope and Despair

By Womens Feature Service

Colombo (Women's Feature Service) - Shanti Murugaya, 19, was excited about becoming an earning member of her family. She had always dreamt of being the breadwinner so that her ailing father wouldn't have to work. However, Shanti's father was anxious: he had heard harrowing tales of Sri Lankan women who had gone to the Middle East to work as housemaids. Yet, as Shanti was adamant, he relented on the condition that she would call home once a week.
When his daughter made her first phone call from Jordan, Murugaya knew something was amiss. Two months later, the family received a message from the Sri Lankan Consulate in Jordan, and were informed by the Prevention and Security Department in Amman, stating that Shanti had fallen off the fourth floor of her employer's house and had succumbed to her injuries. The shocked family was left grappling with questions: had Shanti been raped and killed or had she committed suicide? The Sri Lankan Embassy in Jordan is still awaiting the result of the autopsy to get some answers.
Shanti is one of the hundreds of eager women who dream of overcoming poverty by earning petrodollars in the Gulf countries. Rizana Nafeek, 17, misappropriated facts to falsify her age only to appear old enough to work as a nanny in the Gulf. During her employment interview in 2004 she told the authorities that she was in her 30s, as 30 is the minimum age for employment as a nanny. Though she was hired as a housemaid, Rizana was later asked to care of a baby, too. Ignorant of baby care, she mishandled the baby and the infant choked and died. She was arrested and has been sentenced to death. 'Human Rights Watch' (HRW) has taken up the case along with the Sri Lankan authorities and it is being tried in Saudi Arabia. The latest is that the baby's father has pardoned Rizana so she might escape capital punishment.
Dr Keheliya Rambukwella, Sri Lanka's Minister of Foreign Employment Promotion and Welfare, says, housemaids should not be given the job of a nanny, as they are not trained to care of babies. Rambukwella also says that the Sri Lankan government is looking into the possibilities of employment prospects in countries such as Norway, Poland, Italy and even Japan, where a more systematic mode of remuneration is possible. "Some housemaids in the Gulf are forced to work 12 to 14 hours a day and don't get a day off. The International Labour Organization (ILO) and the government are in the process of drafting proposals to change this," says the minister.
A media officer at the Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment (SLBFE) reveals that there are 1.5 million migrant workers from Sri Lanka in the Middle East and non-Middle East (Cyprus, Singapore, Malaysia and Hong Kong). In 2007, 52.77 per cent women went as migrant workers. Housemaids, nannies and babysitters fall into the category of the Domestic Sector and last year, 102,176 women went abroad to work in this sector. Of the housemaids who went, 18,446 were between the age of 25 and 29 years and 18,426 were between 35 and 39 years. On an average,their salary is 45 Kuwaiti Dinars (US$1=KWD 0.27). Most of these women have little education and are housewives so they do not earn if they remain in Sri Lanka.
As per SLBFE, there are 1.4 million Sri Lankan workers in the Gulf, 60 per cent are housemaids and 65 per cent female. "Of these, 15 per cent complain of physical and sexual harassment while 18 per cent complain of non-payment of agreed wages. Twenty per cent complain of lack of communication between employer and employee," said the SLBFE media officer.
"...In 2007, we received 1,273 complaints of sexual and physical harassment. Our policy is to contact the Embassy and send for a report to the 'Haamputha's' (sponsor's) house. We also contact the local agent. If they don't respond, we cancel the licence of the local agent," explained the officer.
Talking about the efforts of the SLBFE, the media officer said, "We give compensation in the case of death or permanent disability during the period of registration. We pay LKR 300,000 (US$1=LKR 110.05) for permanent disability and LKR 500,000 in case of death. Death can be due to homicide, accident or, as in most cases, due to natural causes. We have also built a house in Polonnaruwa, in the North Central part of Sri Lanka, for a housemaid whose legs were cut off."
Even as Kingsley Ranawake, Chairman, SLBFE, assures of prompt action and assistance to victims and their families; and even as the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) implements awareness programmes for civil society and capacity building for law enforcement officers to help prosecute offenders in cases of trafficking, most migrant workers find it difficult to avail of the benefits. The reason being, those who have encountered serious problems had migrated through illegal channels.
According to 'Case Studies of Temporary Labour Migration of Women in Bangladesh and Sri Lanka', "A well-organised illegal network of unscrupulous agents, operating in both Sri Lanka and the host country, takes advantage of loopholes in the system... to organise illegal migration of workers with forged documentation. Workers unregistered with the SLBFE forfeit benefits of services, such as insurance, in the event of accident, death or non-completion of contract. Migrants who have little or no education run into problems more often, as they are more likely to lack the ability to access and process information and acquire or benefit from training."
Housemaids are extremely vulnerable to abuse since they live inside homes and often have to work long hours with insufficient food and rest. According to HRW (November 2007), "Of the 100 female domestic workers interviewed, 20 said that they had experienced physical abuse by their employers or their employers' children. Many experienced psychological abuse, including verbal abuse... the physical abuse included beatings, deliberate burning with hot irons, kicking, slapping and hair-pulling. Domestic workers said that their employers had beaten them with slippers, rubber hoses, a vacuum cleaner, basins, wires, chairs, wooden planks, broomsticks, knives, an iron bar and in one case, a cane. At the time of the interview, several women bore the scars of this abuse; burns, scars, a cast, shorn hair..."
The HRW document also states, "Of the 100 women interviewed, 13 reported sexual harassment or assault by their employer or employer's sons. Of these, five had been raped and three became pregnant, as a consequence. The actual number of Sri Lankan migrant domestic workers who are sexually harassed or assaulted is not known, but it is clear that it is vastly underreported due not only to the stigma and shame attached to such abuse, but also because of the fear of countercharges by employers... and the lack of accessible complaint mechanisms."
Unfortunately, because crimes of sexual violence often take place in private settings, the only evidence before courts often consists of the differing accounts given by a male national employer and a foreign female employee, with the former generally given the benefit of the doubt.Womens Feature Service covers developmental, political, social and economic issues in India and around the globe. To get these articles for your publication, contact WFS at the website.

Several Lankans still in Middle East prisons

By Hemanthi Guruge
More than 300 Sri Lankans still remain imprisoned in the Middle East and the Maldives, the Chairman of the Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment (SLBFE) Kingsley Ranawaka said.
Mr. Ranawaka said the prisoners have been imprisoned for organized crime, large scale drug trafficking, use of drugs, expired visa and other illegal activities.
He further said that the Foreign Employment Bureau was providing welfare assistance to the prisoners through the Welfare Office. Meanwhile the SLBFE will offer assistance to ensure the release of Sri Lankans imprisoned overseas for minor offences. Mr. Ranawaka also said the SLBFE will be providing air tickets after the period of imprisonment ends.