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.