Sunday, August 30, 2009

Detention by SLBFE ! Do they have Right to Arrest People ?

A Weekend Column for Migrants Workers
By G.S.L.J.S.Dias -AAL

My own experience can be a good beginning for this column. I used to work for an INGO in an Asian country and for many years I was not called to pay the Migrants levy at the Airport, in many occassions i was in good attire and therefore I was free to travel without checked by the SLBFE officials. One day in 2006 when I traveled with my mother they stopped me and asked my Levy and stamp by SLBFE. It went to nearly 30 minutes with arguments an counter arguments with SLBFE as they don’t have clear idea on under what category I can be charged. As I work for INGO, they didn’t had any clue on my category further there was no gazette notification displayed at the counters in this regard , neither they had it in their files. Since my feeble mother is waiting for me at the lobby I decided to pay basic amount and finally I agreed to pay 3500/= which is the lowest levy available and I attached a protest note to the authorities. I have been able to argue, question and challenge as I am a Lawyer, but a poor persons comes to Colombo for the first time may surrender them selves as they think this is the law of the country.

I made an official complain to the Airport authority seeking their explanation on what grounds they have allowed outside parties to maintain legal rights that only permitted to Civil Aviation Authority. The reply from the airport aviation authority informed me that the Airport Aviation Authority, authorized the presence of SLBFE at the airport but silent on the unlawful arrest and detentions. Civil Aviation Authority had no legal rights to deligate the Right of Detention or arrest to unlawful parties in this case SLBFE within the Airport. It’s not mentioned in the Civil Aviation laws neither SLBFE act. Specially to conduct it as general daily routine. We Sri Lankans believe and adhered only to the Rule of Law but not to any other powers.

Since then I used to question the presence of SLBFE officials at the airport and inquire about their legality of stop people ,question and prevent them moving. According to the Sri Lankan Law except for those who permitted to maintained law and order others cannot take any one in to custody unless an irreparable destruction happening. Prevention of movement at the Airport is a clear obstruction of freedom of movement and an unlawful arrest as described in the Sri Lankan Law. Therefore what’s happening at the Airport is an unlawful arrest and obstructing the freedom of movement. Other than Law enforcing Authorities Immigration is authorised to prevent Persons leaving the country. Even though its also questionable at least its legal. These days there are various Law enforcing officers are waiting at the Airport to prevent suspected persons leaving country. They also have authority to do so even though its also questionable.

Freedom of movement is guaranteed as a fundamental Right by the Sri Lankan Constitution. Therefore SLBFE act is a violation of Sri Lankan Constitution as well as continue to do so without a proper authority is an unlwfull act. I have received many complains form various parties that many migrant workers have been stopped at the Airport by the officials of the SLBFE and send them back as some of these people doesn’t have money to pay the levy. Some people were asked to pay even more than Rs.10,000 and some poor villages pawned their jewelries for unreasonable amounts to pay this levy. An official working inside the airport told me that one of his relations faced the same situations and he has witnessed many such unfortunate situations. According to the act all the persons are legally bound to pay the levy. But there is no legal authority to these unauthorized people (SLBFE Staff)to stop any one at the airport or detain or obstruct movement of people which is guaranteed by the constitution. There isn’t any clause that permitted officers or a person of SLBFE is permitted to obstruct people at the Air port or arrest or detain them.
I request all those who travel through Colombo Airport to go through the SLBFE counter and ask their legality and question their presenace at every point and ask themto show their authorisation documents.As Legitimate citizens of this country we can question and we have that Right.

I was not prevented by SLBFE for many years but suddenly checked as I was not in rich attire on the said day. So the rational for SLBFE is they obstruct only he poor and they don’t stop any good looking people. They don’t have systems that insist all Sri Lankans departure from Sri Lanka is compulsory to go through their check point at the Airport. I have seen many well dressed migrant workers are leavening the country with out any levy and without checked by SLBFE at the Airport. The unequal and discriminatory nature of checking must come to a holt and SLBFE needs to get the sanctions from the Sri Lankan Legislative for such action where Civil society can challenge before they enact, if the try to bring discriminatory laws.

By using this kind of screening they do violate another FR which is the Right to equal treatment. What SLBFE can argue will be they are not a state body but a company. My argument is then we can still challenge them on the basis that they have no authority to operate at the airport and unless state allowed them to operate, then the relevant ministry is violating the above Rights and by that they are violating our Rights.

Non benefiting Payment

Under the Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment Act No. 21 of 1985, it is a legal requirement for all workers leaving Sri Lanka for overseas employment to be registered with the Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment (SLBFE) prior to departure. The annual turn over of SLBFE will be Over 800 Million from the registered Migrant workers if we take 200,000 Departures per year and levy at a minimum rate of 4000. The numbers are higher than that and fees are also higher. The SLBFE other earnings such as License fees, fines etc will bring much higher additional revenue generation. SLBFE is a profit making company manage by the government and mainly maintained by the poor Migrant workers from their hard earn money. It’s their money as each migrant worker registered at the SLBFE pays levy between 3500- 12,000 or more based on their country and job.

Officially over 1.7 million people are working overseas at present. 80% of these placement have been to the middle -east mainly to Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar and the UAE. Out of these Saudi Arabia accounted for 33% of the market. Almost 95% of labour to Saudi Arabia has been as House-maids. There can be 250,000 others working as undocumented workers and those who unregistered at the SLBFE including direct hiring and various others.
In 2007 Rs. 276,814 Million received as foreign remittances by private parties against 35.75% of the total exports this is the second largest revenue generator in the Sri Lankan export sector. The government and their various other actors are highly benefiting by this remittances. Almost all banks involved in remittance business earns substantial amount of their income through the foreign remittance by the migrant workers. With all "Mahinda Chinthana" Says: that “Open new avenues for skilled labour in fields such as nursing, shipping, computer science , etc., to secure foreign employment. An English medium nursing college will be established, which is aimed at fulfilling the growing demand for nurses in European countries. Welfare projects will be introduced ay village level for the benefit of the children of those who are employed abroad. Special arrangements will be made to protect the female expatriate workers. Special housing loan schemes will be arranged through state and private banks, with a 30% contribution being made by the Government through a suitable mechanism.
A pension Scheme will be introduced for those who are employed abroad.
The duty free allowance presently available for returnees from employment abroad will be increased to US$ 5,000. Laws will be amended to allow the use of this facility during the first 6 months from date of returning to Sri Lanka.”
SLBFE web site says that the Bureau offer various services and benefits to the workers even though its questionable as the recipient are bare minimum and deaths and other disabilities comes as below;
Natural Deaths 2006- 100 male 72 female total 172 , 2007 – 112 male 87 female total 199
Accidental deaths 2006- 59 male 18 female total 77, 2007 – 48 male 18 female total 66
Suicide deaths 2006- 3 male 4 female total 7, 2007 – 3 male 6 female total 9
Static’s indicate that annually there can be maximum of 100 deaths comes under the compensation SLBFE schemes and these compensation will not exceed 30 million per year and disabilities compensations will be less than the above amount. What ever way the total welfare that migrants receive will be less than 100 million that includes grade 5 scholarships, and other offers. Most of the other benefits offered by the SLBFE are loans which they agreed with state banks. Even the death compensation are paid by the Sri Lanka insurance company which lamented that the amount paid by the SLBFE is not sufficient and they need to increase the amount. This reveals that even the death compensation are on an insurance scheme where SLBFE doesn’t directly pay the compensation.
The question comes then , where does the money that poor migrant workers pay will be utilize? This column will be email to the SLBFE and more than 20 of its officers and the ministry as well as to the minister. They should come out with the utilization details if it’s positive than what I propose. Also this is posted to many other Rights Organizations and international bodies for their information.
My argument is that

1) Firstly the levy doesn’t serve to the Sri Lankan migrant community and it’s a eye wash and money grab.
2) Secondly the levy shouldn’t use as a point to prevent people leave the country but can be taken as voluntary or non compulsory manner.
3) If levy is compulsory as it says in the act then the benefits must be more substantial and transparence and accountability need to be increase.
4) There is a basic principle in the law says that no one can become rich through other people money. SLBFE is a company and they have no rights become rich but to serve.
5) The other question is that under which jurisdiction that air port authority authorized private company (SLBFE) to run a detention facilities and jurisdiction of arrest passengers comes to airport.

This is a serious situation that Migrant Rights Organizations, Agencies, Lawyers and International institution must deal with the Sri Lankan Government who is a signatory for the International Covenant for Migrant Workers as well as Bound by Fundamental Rights of the Constitution.

Explosive corruption and fraud in SL Embassy in Korea

Lanka-e-News 30.Aug.5.30PM) Who is the Minister who appointed a local without a visa in Korea after six months illicit stay and was to be deported by the Korean Immigration and emigration Dept., as a welfare officer in the SL Embassy?

This individual who was to be deported for this wrongdoing with a five year ban disallowing him entry to the country was appointed as a welfare officer on forged identity card and passport.

This individual who has no proper knowledge of English, Sinhala or Tamil is from Kandy District and his name is Mohomed Suhaib. After discovering that his educational certificates were forged following an investigation by the Foreign employment Bureau , he was forwarded a letter to send a reply within 7 days , so far there has been no reply received.

Besides, despite this officer’s term having ended and is called back to the country, the Ambassador in Korea has extended his term by a further three months. Although a new Officer has been appointed in place of Suhaib as far back as in April, the Ambassador is holding back the new appointment, it is reported.

In another disgraceful incident, Thushara Perera , a labor officer in the SL High Commission has collected the compensation of Rs. Five million due to an employee who died ,by forwarding forged documents and fraudulently presenting his sister as that of the deceased. 'Lanka E News' highlighted this in November 2008. Consequently, after the discovery that Thushara Perera’s certificates were forged and the compensation fraud was proved , his official passport and his Embassy appointment were cancelled.

Meanwhile, Ambassador Asitha Perera had requested an extension of two months for Thushara Perera’s service pending his replacement , and got him a re validation for his official passport for a similar period. Taking advantage of this relief, Thushara has fled to England illicitly. As a result, the investigations which were on against him has come to a halt.

The letter appended confirms the request made by the Ambassador Asitha Perera requesting the extension of Thushara Perera’s term by two months and re validation of his passport too for two months.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Strengthening Island-wide Administrative Network for the Development of Foreign Employment Industry in Sri Lanka

Friday, 07 August 2009
Despite the fact that women as domestic workers have earned billions of dollars, their employment abroad has created a social degeneration in the country.
It is important to build-up a work-force covering all Divisional Secretarial Divisions in Sri Lanka who will be responsible for the promotion development, protection and Welfare of migrant workers. Considering the fact that the Returned and Retained migrant workers as well as foreign job seekers scattered all over the country, there should be a strong network to launch administrative and development activities in the village level.
Within this context the Ministry of Foreign Employment Promotion and Welfare as well as Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment can manipulate the proposed development officers to implement their promotional and welfare activities in efficient and effective manner.
With the approval of Ministry of Public Administration and Home Affairs and the cooperation extended by Government Agents, Divisional Secretaries, we already identified the development officers for all Divisional Secretarial Divisions in Sri Lanka.
1. To provide opportunity to the Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment to make use of Human Resource in Divisional Secretarial Divisions level.
2. To build up island wide strong network for the development of labour migration.
3. To provide opportunities to implement promotional, protectional and Welfare activities including the implementation of National Labour Migration policy for Sri Lanka with the patronage of existing Administrative Mechanism in this Country.
4. To make use of the work –force to conduct surveys, researches and other kind of special projects, periodically identified by the Bureau and the Ministry.
5. To collect data regarding the returned and retained migrant workers and their families to make policy decisions and to implement welfare activities.
1. Identification of development officers for all Divisional Secretariat Divisions in Sri Lanka through Divisional Secretaries and Government Agents.
2. Organization of district wise awareness programs.
3. Implementation of awareness programs through Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment.
4. Handing over job task/job description to the development officers.
5. Monitoring and Evaluation.

500 Lankan families returned from India last month

Around 500 families have flown back to Sri Lanka from India in the last one month, Vadivel Krishnamoorthy, Sri Lankan Deputy High Commissioner in Southern India said on Friday adding that this was opposed to just 20 families who had returned the previous month.
In his first interaction with the reporters, after assuming charge as Deputy High Commissioner, Mr. Krishnamoorthy explained the various welfare measures initiated by the Sri Lankan government in the North and North Eastern Provinces after the end of civil war.
“The fear factor has been removed. People are being treated equally irrespective of their ethnic background. The new Sri Lanka provides a favourable climate for investment. July 2009 alone witnessed 45.2 per cent increase in the number of tourist arrivals to the island from India. About 500 families have flown back to the island in the last one month against 20 families in the previous month,” he said.
Addressing the members of India-ASEAN-Sri Lanka Chamber of Commerce and Industry, he urged the Indian businessmen to make good use of the favourable investment climate for mutual benefit. “Though the bilateral trade between India and Sri Lanka has grown from $0.5 billion to $3.2 billion in 2008, we are yet to touch the real potential. It can be scaled up since the fear factor has been removed. I am here to have long standing partnership with trade and business community,” he added.
In his welcome address, Chamber president C.S. Muthu Subramaniyan said: “Recent developments in Sri Lanka provide enormous growth opportunity for development. Trade and investment opportunities are on the rise and Indian real estate companies have started exploring opportunities in the island.” (Hindu)

Two Lankans contract swine flu in Kuwait

The Sri Lankan Embassy in Kuwait has informed the Foreign Employment Bureau that two Sri Lankan women working in Kuwait has been identified to be infected with the H1N1 virus or Swine Flu.
The Additional General Manager of the Foreign Employment Bureau, L K Rhunuge said that it was confirmed that the two female employees have been infected. The two women are now being treated at a hospital in Kuwait, while 13 other associates of the two have also been taken in for tests, to confirm whether they are infected with the virus as well, he said. The exact details of the two Sri Lankans have not yet been revealed said the Additional General Manager.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

New regulations enacted to protect domestic helpers

By Hani Hazaimeh
AMMAN - Religious freedom, healthcare, 10-hour workdays and one day off per week are among the benefits domestic helpers are entitled to under instructions endorsed by the Cabinet on Tuesday.
The new regulation, aimed to protect the rights of domestic workers, corresponds to a recent amendment to the Labour Law under which domestic helpers and agricultural workers are included, Labour Minister Ghazi Shbeikat said in a meeting with reporters earlier this week.
"The new instruction will help address several problems that used to appear in the past and will also protect workers’ rights in accordance with international human rights standards," Shbeikat said.
To implement the new standards, the ministry will form an ad hoc committee, the Non-Jordanian Domestic Helpers Affairs Committee, comprising representatives from the ministry, the Domestic Helpers Agencies Association and the Public Security Department, the minister said.
Under the new regulations, which will be put into effect after being published in the Official Gazette, employers are required to pay for the domestic helper’s work permit and the issuance of a residency permit.
The worker is entitled to be in contact with her family in her homeland at least once a month at the employer's expense, as well as a decent living situation and freedom to practise her own religion.
When travelling abroad temporarily, employers cannot bring their domestic helpers without their approval and will have to notify the worker's relevant embassy in the Kingdom, according to the regulations.
Moreover, workers are entitled to a 14-day paid annual leave, with the timing agreed between the employer and the worker, in addition to 14 days of paid sick leave per year.
Additionally, employers are not allowed to send their domestic helpers to work in other people's homes.
In return, according to the regulations, domestic helpers must do their job with “utmost integrity and faithfulness, respect the privacy of their workplace and maintain its contents, not reveal the secrets of the house, respect the employer's traditions and culture, and not leave the house without the employer's permission”.
If a domestic helper runs away from her workplace, the employer will not be obligated to fulfil any financial obligations to the worker, nor will the employer bear the expense of sending the domestic helper back to her country.
In case of any complaints reported to the Labour Ministry, the regulations authorise the ministry to dispatch a male and female inspector to the domestic helper's workplace after obtaining the employer’s approval.
If the ministry's inspectors find the employer in violation of the ministry's regulations, the employer will be issued a warning and required to resolve the violation within one week, after which he will be subject to measures stipulated by the Labour Law.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Lifting of ban on OFW deployment in Lebanon hangs

Thousands of aspiring Filipino contract workers may have to wait for a few more months for the government to lift the deployment ban to Lebanon as negotiations between the Philippines and Lebanon on a memorandum of agreement (MoA) that would govern the deployment of the workers to the Middle East state has been stalled since July.
Lebanese Honorary Consul to the Philippines Consul General Joseph Assad said negotiations on the matter can not resume because the new government of Prime Minister Saad Hariri has been unable to form a new Cabinet since the June 7 elections in Lebanon.
"The country is waiting for new administration officials (to be chosen). Until then and till they appoint a new labor minister, the Lebanon-Philippines talks will be put in the backburner as other priorities on the labor front will have to be tackled initially by the new (Lebanese) government," Assaid said.
He said thousands of skilled positions for construction, tourism, service and hospitality categories await qualified overseas Filipino workers (OFW) as the building boom continues unabated with the return of political stability in Lebanon.
Manila issued the OFW deployment ban to Lebanon in 2006 following the outbreak of hostilities between Israeli and Hezbollah forces.
There are about 400,000 household service workers in Lebanon, 10 percent of this figure are Filipinos.
Presently, there are more than 46,000 maids in Lebanon in addition to the 25,000 who opted to remain in Beirut during the 2006 war with Israel.
The 46,000 managed to slip into Lebanon from July 2006 to December 2008 and many more have arrived this year, Assad said.
He said he has yet to receive word from Lebanon on the composition and the date of the arrival of the new panel that will negotiate for the MoA in the Philippines.
Earlier, the Lebanese government rejected the Philippines’ demand for a $400 a month minimum salary for household domestic helpers.
The current minimum salary for maids in Lebanon is $300 a month, and until that is amended by the Lebanese parliament, Beirut could not agree to the MoA, Assad said.
Michaela P. del Callar

Medical Check for Returning Workers Mandatory in Ajman

26 August 2009
AJMAN — Ajman Municipality has made it mandatory for all its workers returning from vacation to undergo a free medical check up to ensure health safety in the emirate and prevent swine flu (H1N1).
It is part of a number of several measures that the municipality officials are taking.
Khaled Abdul Wahab, Head of the Human Resource section at the Municipality, said that the instruction was made by Shaikh Rashid bin Humaid Al Nuiami, Chairman of Ajman Department of Municipality and Planning (ADMP) aimed at providing comprehensive medical examinations and treatment to ensure health safety.
He added the examination and treatment services at Ajman Specialty Hospital for more than 2,000 workers will be financed by ADMP. Director of human resources at the Department Khaled Abdul Wahab said that Dar Al Ber Society will provide the workers with three Iftar meals a week during the holy month of Ramadan.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

42 Illegals Nabbed in Sharjah Crackdown

25 August 2009
SHARJAH — The Sharjah Department of Naturalisation and Residency has nabbed 42 violators of the federal law for entry and residency of foreigners. Director of the Department Colonel Dr Abdullah Sahowa said.
The illegal residents were apprehended during a crackdown conducted by the Foreigners and Violators’ Follow up Section on the Industrial
zone No 1.
“Of them, 14 were infiltrators, including seven who were already
deported, and 28 illegal residents,”
he said.
Dr Abdullah Sahowa affirmed that the massive inspection campaigns that has been undertaken against infiltrators or residents who had overstayed would continue unabated to arrest those violators and bring them to justice as part of the Ministry of Interior’s drive to combat unlawful residency in the country. — Wam

Code 72 expats now allowed to transfer sponsor

KUWAIT CITY, Aug 24: The Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor has issued a decision allowing expatriates with files under code 72 to transfer their residence permits to another sponsor, reports Al-Shahid daily quoting sources. Sources explained the ministry puts files of companies under code 72 if the owners allow their employees to work for another sponsor.
Sources said expatriate employees under this code had previously not been allowed to transfer to another sponsor and were deported to their home countries. Sources added tens of thousands of files had been put under code 72. A large number of firms of these sponsors have been closed. Sources believe that most of such firms belong to visa traders who sell the visas allotted to them and then allow the visa holders to work with other firms.

Immigrant stabbed by trafficker

Arab News

JAZAN: A disagreement between a human trafficker and his clients seeking illegal entry into Saudi Arabia ended with one of the migrants being stabbed by the smuggler, a local daily reported.
The man was commissioned to deliver the unreported number of migrants from Jazan at the border with Yemen to Abha. The man reportedly tried to deceive the migrants by dropping them in a village halfway between the two cities, claiming it was Abha.
The fight broke out when the migrants refused to pay the trafficker unless he took them the rest of the way. The stabbed man was reportedly in critical condition.

People with HIV need help

Halima Muzafar | Al-Watan

People who are HIV positive or have AIDS patiently wait for donations to help them obtain medicines. They have become a demographic that we can no longer ignore. Some of these patients are victims, like little Sara who was featured prominently in the press recently.
Some are born with HIV. They did not get the virus through illegitimate relationships; they inherited the virus from women who contracted it from their infected husbands. Others were given the virus through dirty blood transfusions or other medical mistakes.
Society to Aid AIDS Patients Chairman Dr. Sanaa Filimban told me her group is in charge of 150 poor Saudi families in Makkah province who have at least one HIV positive family member. She said the society is unable to provide assistance to 45 poor Saudi families because there are not enough donors willing to support this cause.
The sufferings of these families are on the rise because patients with AIDS are unable to get jobs, which would help them buy medicines that could cost as much as SR10,000 a month.
Job discrimination against people with HIV is common.
Our health security is jeopardized when we are unable to provide medical, social and psychological treatment for people with HIV.
These people are in dire need of financial help. This can be done just by becoming a member of the society for an annual fee of SR300. This is a small amount of money for the good it can do. The society can be contacted at 02-658-1666.

Thirty arrests made to counter child-trafficking

By Roel Raymond
The National Child Protection Authority (NCPA) says upto 30 arrests have been made so far in cases involving child-trafficking, which has now become a lucrative business.The NCPA says it is working with various organizations and social services groups in an attempt to bring an end to the exploitation of children.
Chairman Jagath Wellawatte told Daily Mirror online that while 25 incidents of minors having been sent abroad illegally for work have been reported to them, upto 30 arrest have so far been made of those involved in this form of child-trafficking.
In the period between January and May of this year, 469 cases of child abuse had been reported to the NCPA and were being looked into or channeled to sources that would handle them, according to the specific needs of each case.

Lankan caught printing counterfeit currency notes

By Vineetha M Gamage

A Sri Lankan aged 28 years has been taken into custody by the S. Korean Police, in the City of Suwon, for the alleged printing of counterfeit “ Won ” currency notes.

According to the Sri Lankan Embassy in Korea, the Korean Police have taken 39 currency notes of Won. 10,000 and the printer that had been used. The arrested Sri Lankan had gone to South Korea in 2006 through a Private Employment Agency and had been serving in a Steel Mill in the City of Suwon since then.

After completing his service contract, he was due to arrive in Sri Lanka on August 28.

According to the Welfare Officer, Mr. Suhair, the person is now in the remand custody of the Korean Police and investigations are being conducted.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Mother seeks pardon for death-row maid

K.S. Ramkumar | Arab News

JEDDAH: A Sri Lankan woman is here to seek a pardon for her daughter who has been sentenced to death in connection with the murder of an elderly Saudi woman.

“I am here to perform Umrah and also plead with the Sri Lankan Consulate to use its good offices and save my only daughter from being beheaded,” a sobbing Rukiamma, 51, told Arab News on Sunday.

With tears flowing down her cheeks, Rukiamma, who hails from Thirugunamale, an eight-hour drive from capital Colombo, said she had already spent 20 days of her monthlong Umrah visa to meet with her daughter twice.

“I asked my daughter, Halima Lisa, who is 32, why did you have to do this? She cried saying ‘Save me, save me’. She regrets what has happened but wants me to try my best with the help of the consulate to save her,” said Rukiamma. “I met my daughter after 12 years.”

Rukiamma, who also has a son, worked as a housemaid in Riyadh for four years after she lost her husband in a road accident in Sri Lanka 10 years ago.

Halima worked as a housemaid with a Saudi family in Jeddah’s Al-Rawdah district. Nine years ago, she ganged up with six others, including her Indian husband Naushad with whom she has two children, to stage a break-in with the intention of robbing the villa of its valuables. Halima has two other children from her divorced husband back home.

Halima was found guilty of suffocating the Saudi woman in her 70s to death with her husband and another Sri Lankan by the name of K.M.S. Bandaranaike, while four others, all Sri Lankans, were engaged in the robbery.

All of them were caught and the General Court in Jeddah sentenced in 2004 three of them to death and the other four to five years imprisonment and 500 lashes.

The case was further referred to the Cassation Court in Makkah, which upheld the General Court’s judgment. The case was next referred to the Supreme Judicial Council in Riyadh, but to no avail, according to the records with the consulate.

Rukiamma’s visit is being funded by the Colombo-based Sri Lankan Bureau of Foreign Employment, according to Sri Lankan Consul General Abdul Latiff Mohamed Lafeer. “We have been pleading with the aggrieved Saudi family to pardon the housemaid on compassionate grounds. After all, this is the holy land and the land of forgiveness,” said Lafeer. He said considering the fact that Rukiamma was underprivileged the bureau chose to send her for Umrah and enable her to see her daughter, who has been languishing in jail.

The consul general recalled another case involving a Sri Lankan who had killed an Indian worker following a financial dispute. “A generous Saudi responded to our appeal and furnished the blood money, and the Sri Lankan’s life was saved,” said Lafeer.

Sri Lanka names new envoy to Kingdom
Mohammed Rasooldeen | Arab News

RIYADH: The Sri Lankan government has nominated Ahmed Aflal Jawad as the new ambassador to Saudi Arabia, the island’s Deputy Foreign Minister Hussein Bhaila told Arab News on Sunday.

“The Foreign Ministry has nominated Director General for Economic Affairs Ahmed Aflal Jawad as the country’s ambassador in Saudi Arabia to the High Post Committee of Parliament for formal approval,” Bhaila said, adding that the new envoy would likely be approved and posted to Riyadh before the Haj in order to have an envoy in time to help Lankan pilgrims.

Last year, around 6,000 Sri Lankans performed Haj and this year the Colombo government has requested an increased quota of pilgrims.

Jawad succeeds Abdul Ageed Mohamed Marleen who died in his sleep on June 23 in a hotel room in Sanaa, Yemen, while attending a meeting of the Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Cooperation.

Jawad joined the Sri Lankan foreign service in 1988 as deputy chief of protocol and subsequently served in Stockholm, Paris and Beijing as third secretary, first secretary and minister, respectively. In 2004, he became the island’s ambassador in Oslo. In 2007 he became the director general of economic affairs at the Foreign Ministry.

An old boy of the Royal College of Colombo, Jawad excelled in his curricular and extra-curricular activities before graduating from the University of Ceylon. He is the son of prominent social worker M.F.A. Jawad, who was the personal assistant to Sir Razick Fareed, the acclaimed leader of the Sri Lankan Moors.

Two Lankans arrested in India over visa racket

HYDERABAD: Task Force central zone team on Saturday busted an international fake visa racket and arrested five persons, including two Sri Lankan nationals settled in Chennai.

The sleuths of Task Force seized incriminating material from them. The gang involving eight people used to supply fake visas to people wanting to go to Canada, UK, France, Czechoslovakia and other European countries.

Deputy commissioner of police, Task Force, V B Kamalasan Reddy, identified the arrested as Shaik Hyder alias Safder, 31, Akberbagh, Saidabad, Rangaswamy Krishnan alias Praveen Kumar, 44, a resident of Anna Street, Chennai and a travel agent by profession, Krishna Murthy, 60, resident of Abdul Kareem street, Chennai, Yeramshetty Nagaraj alias Raju, 35, resident of Dilsukhnagar, Hyderabad and Veerasingan Rajan alias Robert, 48, resident of Bhagya Laxminagar, Alapakam, Chennai.

Three others of the gang, Shahnawaz alias Akif, the owner of Global Consultancy, Malakpet, Sikander, maternal uncle of Shahnawaz and Mustafa, younger brother of Shahnawaz are absconding, police said.

Krishna Murthy and the others also used to aid Sri Lankan Tamilians get visas to go to European countries.

Shahanawaz reportedly collected 150 passports from different individuals and travel agents and collected about Rs one crore. He returned nearly 8 to 10 passports with fake Canadian visas to clients collecting over Rs 4 lakh from each person, the police said. Task Force police swooped on the accused when they met at a lodge near Malakpet to discuss their future plans on Saturday.

Investigation into the case began after six clients with fake Canadian visas were detained at the Rajiv Gandhi International Airport on July 22, 2009. Probe revealed that Shahnawaz had cheated them by making them believe that that the visas were genuine.

One Mohd Wajahed Shareef of Matchless Travel Bureau, Lakdi-ka-pul had also lodged a complaint against Shahanawaz and others at Saifabad police station for cheating them, taking away passports and huge amount with the promise of providing visas. The arrested were handed over to airport police station. (Times of India)

Sri Lankan arrested in Male on prostitution charges

A Sri Lankan woman and a Maldivian man have been arrested on suspicion of engaging in prostitution in a guest house in Male’. The Sri Lankan woman lived in a rented room in the guest house with two other Sri Lankan women in the same room who also collaborated in prostitution, police said.

According to Maldives Police Services, the Maldivian man is 25 year old Ibrahim Ali of Hithaanuge / Ga Kondey and the expatriate woman is 27 year old Sri Lankan Sagaka Malakanthia.

The two people were arrested yesterday night in a raid conducted following a report from the public.

The case is being investigated by Serious and Organized Crime Unit

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Sudden Surge in Illegal Immigrants Seeking Pot of Gold in Dubai

Amira Agarib
 (KT Exclusive)

24 August 2009
DUBAI — Rahmatalla Al Afghani has illegally entered Dubai 15 times and promises to do it again as he continues to chase the Dubai dream.
“I will not stop infiltrating Dubai. I will try to get the money which I need by all means,” the 25-year-old Afghan told Khaleej Times from jail after his most recent arrest.
“I want to have a supermarket, a villa, a luxury car in Afghanistan.”
Al Afghani is one of 36,000 people caught illegally entering or staying in the country in the first six months of the year — a rate that if continued would more than double last year’s figures which show only 29,000 were caught for all of 2008.
As recession hits people in their home country, many harbouring the idea of a good life in Dubai have come to the emirate illegally, said Brigadier Khalil Ibrahim Al Mansouri, Director of the General Department of Criminal Investigation.
Al Mansouri called for stricter measures, including intensifying border patrols and establishing more inspection offices at entry points to the country, to reduce the number of illegal immigrants. He said police units could also be stationed at UAE entry points.
Afghani, who married two years ago, said he has illegally entered 13 other countries but said he likes Dubai the most. Police discovered he was responsible for 80 thefts during his latest stay and he is serving a three-year sentence to be completed in 2010 after which he will be deported.
“Dubai is the best place to live in and steal from,” Afghani said. “So I will never stop infiltrating to Dubai. I am a poor man and I need to support my family.”
Al Mansouri said that of the illegal immigrants and residents caught this year, 22,000 were Bangladeshi, 7,000 Pakistani and the remaining other nationalities. He said 786 people were repeat violators. Statistics showed that 52 had criminal records.
Al Mansouri said that 90 percent of illegal immigrants and residents have no passports or documents. Some sell their passports or use it as guarantee.
He said also some changed their names to obtain new passports in their countries after being deported and illegally enter again.
Some tourist companies were creating more problems by bringing in people but not informing the authorities when their clients do not travel and their visit visas expire.
Al Mansouri said most illegal immigrants and residents were found and arrested by police during raids on bachelor accommodation, farms and in remote areas.
Others were sighted by Dubai Police Airwing, land and sea patrols, as they entered the country by land or sea.
A lack of strict measures to check this phenomenon would have a serious impact on country’s security and pose a burden on the economy, according to Al Mansouri.
“It was important to know how they had entered the country,” he said. “We should investigate the issue and find a solution to protect the society.”
The UAE Coast Guard should play an important role in arresting illegals.
Afghani said he first entered the UAE illegally nine years ago as a 16-year-old.
“I entered the country through Fujairah, Oman, Ras Al Khaimah and most of the time from Iran by sea,” he said.
Afghani said he and other illegal immigrants had paid traders to help them enter the country.
He said the trip to Dubai, often starting in Iran, would usually take him one day. On his first visits, he would need the help of others but he said now he knew all the routes. Those who knew the routes well, knew how to enter without being caught by police or coast guards. “Infiltrating to the UAE is very difficult. The person should know the internal far road which nobody from police can come,” Afghani said.
Afghani said travellers could be killed by snakes or fall from a high point if they weren’t careful.
He had worked in various places in the UAE during his stays, he said, and knew a number of trades but had failed to cover his expenses or send money to his big family in Afghanistan.
He turned to theft, saying he could make $5,000 each time. Afghani said he only works when he is in jail, usually making a date product to sell to other inmates. Afghani vowed he would return to the UAE again. “The police officials offered me to start new life, but I don’t want to be where I can get less money,” Al Afghani said. “I prefer to steal from... rich people.”

Sri Lankan Migrant Workers and HIV

Weekend Column for Migrants Workers
By Lakshan Dias

Sri Lanka is a significant provider to the world’s migrant workers population with similar percentages such as Philippines, Indonesia, Nepal, Bangladesh and Mexico etc. Sri Lankan Percentage of Migrant workers are significant as its almost 2 million (1.6 Million registered and many more undocumented workers ) and is 2% from the entire Migrating population of the world. This is not a coincident but in an era of globalization, economic or labour migration is on the rise. Due to lack of employment opportunities in developing countries and increased demands for low-wage workers in developed countries, youth, women and men are pursuing work in other countries in order to support themselves and their families back home. Patterns of International movement people forcing the poor in Global south to migrate towards developed countries for better future.

ILO reports that “1. The International Labour Organization (ILO) estimates that out of approximately 175 million migrants around the world, half of them are workers. Migrant workers not only contribute to the economies of their host countries, and the remittances* they send home augment their home economies. The ILO reports that remittances figured $223 billion in 2005, more than twice the level of international aid. “ The Poor who migrate to other countries are not sophisticated and as well as they are not very much aware of the issues and circumstances that they are potential to under go while they are involved in their what ever profession. In the same report its says that 2. ” Philippines Migrant Filipina domestic workers are employed in over 130 countries and provide care for children and the elderly in families, or sex work and companionship for men in rich Western and Asian countries.”

The above signals indicated that the Migrant workers are not only involved in domestic work or construction work but face various other realities, abuses and forces condition where they have no other options. This article is not to examine the morality of these realities or investigate to find out culprits behind this but to indicate the realities of the situation they have to live. These migrant workers are from the very poor and most of them were not engaged in proper education. The pre departure trainings that government imposed are not adhered by all the workers as well as such a training is not possible for the economically poor potential migrant workers. These trainings are not practically accessible for those who are in remote parts of the country which is the majority of migrant workers and therefore some agents have their own scams to provide bogus trainings.

1. Migration and Globalisation ILO
2. Migration and Globalisation ILO

I don’t reject the importance of pre departure training that government provide but practically the poor doesn’t have practical opportunities to get the training due to various inabilities as these training centers are mainly far away form their native areas and they have no finances to travel that far to simply get a certificate where they find not relevant. This has created a vacuum in the pre departure orientation and vulnerable situation where poor migrant workers are being exposed to dangers and abuses.

HIV as a Potential Threat for Migrant Workers

In Sri Lankan sexual patterns still a hidden subject where people don’t discuss openly and with full of myths. Sexual behavior is more open and marriage is not a very serious bound in Sri Lankan sexual patterns and behaviors , as well as polygamist patterns and multi sexual partners are common realities of the country. I don’t see these family morals or religious values can do a lot or can stop the dangers that created by HIV/AIDS. But it can be easily manage by awareness and orientations that educate the danger of HIV. In many cases Sri Lankan Migrant workers are landing to an alien country with out proper knowledge and with out any orientation of culture or language. Many Psycho-social needs compelled many migrant workers to find companions of same sex or opposite sex to share and release their burdens as well as towards a closer relationships.

In a mixed and highly globalizes world the sexual patterns and sexually transmitted deceases also rapidly exchanged among each other where some of these uneducated migrant workers highly potential to transmitted with deceases such as HIV / AIDS. If HIV is a decease similar STD the trauma can be ignored but a the deadly nature of the decease will destroyed the entire economy of many poor migrant workers and bring havoc to their families as our societies still do not willing accept those who are positive. At least their families. Migration is not the only mean of HIV transmission but it provide a large space for transmission. The future of such families are not very bright and at the moment some of them are in utter poor and helpless situations.

Health ministers from South and Southeast Asian countries convened during the 2009 World Health Assembly to tackle the growing problem of HIV risks among migrant workers. Ministers from Pakistan, China, Thailand, Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Nepal, as well as representatives from the International Labor Organization, International Organization for Migration, World Health Organization and UNAIDS were present in the meeting, which was a follow up of the 2007 World Health Assembly in Geneva. Health ministers shared experiences and issues on reducing the vulnerability of migrant workers to HIV before they are deployed to their destination countries. The billion dollar question is why Sri Lanka is not part of the meeting. Many think Sri Lanka is a low prevalence country. In my opinion its a kind of huge myth that we are living with where we are in the volcano near to erupt. I was in Bangladesh and them also going through the same myth where they also claiming that they have only 5000 HIV positives from nearly 16 million populations. But the bordering India has 8 – 10 Million HIV positive people are living. We can have our own dreams but there is large number of undocumented HIV patients living in Sri Lankan according to the Organizations working with HIV. Almost all the HIV positive people in my life I met with were either Migrant Workers or family members. Large stake of Sri Lankan HIV population are either ex-Migrant workers or those who are working as Migrant Workers. Numbers can be over 2000 from the Identified 5000 HIV Positive People in Sri Lanka. Unfortunately SLBFE doesn’t have any programme to tackle this issues or awareness rising among Migrant workers except for their trainings. There is no proper plans to those who infected already they are also Migrant workers even though they are infected with HIV or PLWHA.

The Migrant worker came to me shared that the infected HIV due to his sexual behavior in his host country with various nationals. His story was pathetic and he lost every thing he earned as a migrant worker and no body accept him and he is living in hidden. I know that how Sri Lankan Migrant workers involved in relationships with various national as I was part of Migrant workers over 5 years and also know that its in evitable to stop such relationships. I have no issues and not I am morally objecting relationships but concern over the vulnerability to transmit HIV. As far as I believe this is mainly due to ignorance and poor orientation from the state. State doesn’t have a proper awareness plans in the air port or SLBFE level where Migrant workers are instructed to have safe sex or use condoms as safety method. There is no volunteer HIV testing scheme or screening facilities at the air port. The PLWHA who I met shared with me that he infected with HIV three months after his marriage and his host country expelled him his illness without telling him reasons but a report in his hand. His wife was fortunate to prevent her self as she was insist on medical report he carried as well as he was sincere to not to infected his wife.

We have to seriously get involved in awareness rising as we cannot be this low prevalence while our neighbor has over 8 Million. We need to wake up from our dreams. Our Migrant workers are potential for infected with HIV as economic recession in many countries is cutting jobs and a growing commercial sex industry can be the obvious alternative. Singapore and Cyprus are such hot pots for trafficking of women disguise as migrant works.

Mainly our Migrant workers need to be aware of Safety methods and Male or female condoms. Our diplomats and missions needs to have special awareness programmes to deal with the issues. SANRIM at the moment provide Legal Aid for Migrant Workers affected with HIV to obtain their Rights. The needs are gigantic and more and more NGOs and State needs to seriously consider on how to deal with the issues related to the Migrant workers and HIV. Otherwise we will be late when we realize the real size of the Issues.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Repatriation process for housemaids ongoing – Govt

by Roel Raymond

The government says that the repatriation process of housemaids from Middle Eastern countries is still ongoing, with Foreign Employment Minister Keheliya Rambukwella adding that the outflow of maids to these countries has seen a drastic reduction.

‘This is not static, the process is ongoing and we are constantly in touch with and assisting those housemaids that wish to return home’ Minster Rambukwella said, explaining that 63% of those reporting for work in the Middle East during the year 2006 had been women, but that the figure by the end of the year 2008 had come down to 48%.

The Minister also said that the Foreign Employment Ministry was trying to train the womenfolk in caretaker positions of nannies and governesses rather than as housemaid in order to further protect them.

There had been media reports over the past few weeks of Sri Lankan housemaids facing abuse at the hands of their employers. (DM Online)

Friday, August 21, 2009

Sri Lankan mother defends herself in Dubai court

The Sri Lankan mother of a murder suspect in Dubai has rejected the charge of aiding her son and helping him hide from the police, a court heard Thursday. The lady and her brother were charged with aiding a suspect to escape justice when they booked an air ticket for him to fly to Sri Lanka. Another lady has been charged with allowing the suspect to sleep at her house although she knew about the murder.

"I am not guilty. My 23-year-old son asked me to book for him to fly to our homeland. I didn't know about the premeditated murder," argued the 41-year-old Sri Lankan mother when she defended herself before the Dubai Court of First Instance Thursday.

The Public Prosecution charged the mother, M.P., her 29-year-old brother S.P. and her 25-year-old compatriot female T.K., with aiding and abetting the 23-year-old murder suspect, R.K., to escape justice.

M.P. and S.P. were charged with aiding a suspect to escape justice when they booked an air ticket for R.K. to fly to Sri Lanka. T.K. was charged with allowing R.K. to sleep at her house although she knew about the murder.

The mother and her brother both admitted booking a ticket for R.K. but jointly told Presiding Judge Hamad Abdul Latif Abdul Jawad that they were unaware of the murder.

R.K. earlier denied the charges of stabbing and killing J.P., who is the husband of his 29-year-old Nepalese mistress, S.T, in a fit of jealousy when he saw him walking hand-in-hand with his wife (S.T.), according to Public Prosecution records.

"I did quarrel with him and he (J.P.) fought me and I fought back but I didn't intend to kill him. I am not guilty," argued R.K. when he denied his premeditated murder charge in a separate hearing.

In yesterday's case, the Public Prosecution also charged the victim's wife (S.T.) with helping R.K. to escape justice when she claimed to the police that she didn't know the murder suspect.

Jail guards failed to bring in T.K. and S.T. from their detention centre.

Records quoted an Emirati lieutenant testifying that when he questioned the wife (S.T.), she confessed that she was the mistress of R.K., whom she also accused of killing her husband. (Gulf News)

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Sri Lankan drowned in Italy

Leslie PERERA, Ja-Ela Central Corr.

Suresh Randeniya (30) of Batagama North, Kandana employed in Italy was drowned while bathing in a lake in a lake district in Italy with his friends on August 16 according to a report from Milan, Italy.

Reports said most parts of Italy including Milan is presently experiencing dry weather conditions with unbearable heat and many people go on vacation to the wet lake district to enjoy the cool climate. While on a visit to the lake district Suresh had gone to enjoy a bath in one of the lakes (Belarj) with a group of friends when he faced this tragedy.

A friend who had gone to rescue Suresh too had been in difficulties in a deep area and a life saving boat had rescued him. It was two days later that Suresh's body was fished out from the lake.

Suresh's parents Francis Randeniya and Rose Randeniya are in a thoroughly grief stricken state after being informed of their sons death. Rose Randeniya said Suresh was the youngest of their only two son's. They last heard from him when he telephoned them on August 15 and informed them that he would be visiting Belarj lake district with a group of friends. Suresh's body was due to be flown to Sri Lanka for the funeral.

Database for foreign employment

By Hemanthi Guruge
The Ministry of Foreign Employment Promotion is preparing a database of those who wish to seek employment abroad and those who have returned to the country from foreign employment, the Secretary to the Ministry Sunil Sirisena said. He noted that such a database would enhance foreign employment opportunities that the country can utilize.

Mr Sirisena told the Daily Mirror that the Ministry had faced difficulties in allocating job opportunities that had come in the country’s way due to the lack of a database containing qualifications of those who seek foreign employment. He noted that the process of calling applications through newspaper advertisements take time and in the meantime job orders that have come would go elsewhere due to the delay.

He also said that the problems faced by those who go as housemaids would also be reduced by having a database as exploitation by job agents and sub-agents could be minimized. The forms to get registered with the database will be made available through Grama Niladharis and the Divisional Secretariats, Mr Sirisena said.

Meanwhile the Ministry has already prepared a questionnaire to gather information on families of foreign migrant workers.

In addition the Ministry will also collect information on those who have returned to the country after being employed abroad.

Maid admits sex

Maid admits sex: A Nepali housemaid was arrested for having sex with a Bangladeshi man behind her sponsor’s house in Rawda, reports Al-Rai daily.
The sponsor’s wife reportedly woke up early to perform Fajr prayers and noticed the absence of the maid. She questioned the maid when she returned 30 minutes later, and the maid admitted she was having sex with the Bangladeshi. The Kuwaiti woman then called the police who arrived and arrested the maid.
She has been referred to the authorities for questioning and investigations are on to find and arrest the Bangladeshi man.

‘New labor law’ should adapt to international labor standards

The ongoing discussion of the new private sector “labor law” needs to use as its legitimate background the ideals, principles of international labor law, and not the “special” requirements of special interests! In other words, it is incomprehensible while preparing the new labor law to ask for the “consultations and deliberations” of huge corporations, companies and private capital in this matter, as recently reported in the Arab Times (Aug 15, 2009). In matters relating to the basic rights of workers in Kuwait, only the International Labor Organization should be consulted. Doing otherwise goes against all positive expectations in this regard.

In all probability, consulting only business interests about how to amend, change, or regulate labor activities in the country will certainly produce “well-suited” results compatible with what is useful to the businesses which does not have to correspond to the interest of the worker. Therefore, applying and putting into practice the new labor law must be consistent with international labor standards (ILS), regulations, adopted by the International Labor Organization (ILO). As such, comparing or contrasting our economy with other regional economies while we prepare to launch the new law ignores particular international labor standards, which might not be quite popular in other regional economies. Explicitly adopting international work standards, regulations, and rules will open our country to foreign investment.

The current discussion in Kuwait about the nature, regulations, and procedures of the new labor law has to abide by what (ILO) distinguishes as “decent work.” International investment houses, international companies, and global corporations usually test their potential investment territories according to international standards. Doing, otherwise, such companies might face penalties in their home countries. In addition, not applying international standards, while regulating labor activities, exposes any business to international condemnation by labor organizations around the world. In fact, the strategic planning divisions in some international corporations need to highlight their corporation’s compliance with international labor standards, or else they will lose ground to other competitors.
The discussion of the new labor law in Kuwait should focus on maintaining the rights, dignities, and well-being of expatriate workers.

In addition, the current discussion should involve issues pertaining to whether employers in Kuwait, individuals and companies, are abiding by the international labor standards. Such comprehensive understanding of the new labor law will enhance Kuwait’s image in the international arena and will certainly invite more foreign investment. Otherwise, postponing the implementation of the new labor law for the sake of privileged interests will never solve our economic problems.

The International Labor Organization has already in place monitoring committees, which will see through the application of the ILO’s members of labor conventions and recommendations. We in Kuwait have no other choice but to honor such conventions, labor standards, and recommendations.

By Khaled Aljenfawi

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

‘Govt keen on protecting rights, interests of expats’

KUWAIT CITY, Aug 17: The Assistant Undersecretary for Labor Affairs at the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor Mansour Al-Mansour says the ministry is concerned with the problems faced by the expatriates working in the country, and it’s keen on issuing appropriate decisions to protect their rights and interests, reports Al-Jareeda daily. In a statement Al-Mansour stressed officials at the labor sector exert tireless efforts to set comprehensive plans aimed at developing the sector.
In a related development, Al-Mansour said the decision recently issued by the Minister of Social Affairs and Labor to allow laborers working in the private sector to transfer their residencies to other sponsors without approval of the current sponsors is a good step to facilitate elimination of human trafficking which has damaged the image of Kuwait in the international community. He noted the ministry will kick-off its computerization and automatic network operation within the next few days.
Meanwhile, in an unrelated development, some government authorities Sunday deposited salaries of workers for August into the workers accounts at the banks, reports Al-Watan Arabic daily quoting sources from the Central Bank of Kuwait. The same sources added salaries of all employees working at the government authorities will be paid during the week. This decision has been issued to enable families purchase commodities required for the Holy month of Ramadan, the sources indicated.

Humanity degraded - maid lives to tell ‘chilling’ stay in hell-hole

Kuwait City : A Filipina household helper who was allegedly severely beaten and then thrown out from a third floor window by her Arab employers survived to tell her harrowing tale.
25-year-old Christina (last name withheld on her request) said she underwent operation to correct her broken spine and leg at Al Razi hospital last July 20 where she was brought after the incident.
According to Christina, she ran away from her employers’ home due to physical maltreatment and being denied food, so she sought refuge at her agency’s office in Hawally which then reportedly called her employers who immediately came to fetch her.
Despite her protestations against going back, she said she was forcibly dragged by her employers with the help of an agency employee through a back entrance to avoid attracting attention, to their car and while inside, was continuously beaten and kicked.
“On our arrival at my employers’ home, I was kicked and punched all over my body and later taken to a room and told to stop crying or they will throw me out of the window. But because of the excruciating pain I felt from the beating, I couldn’t help crying, so they came back into the room, opened the window and dragged me towards it. I cried and begged them not to and clung to my employer’s legs but they kicked me repeatedly on my face until I was groggy and half conscious and then found myself falling and hitting the ground hard,” Christina sobbingly recalled her
She said she learned her employers she called for an ambulance which then took her to Al Razi Orthopedic hospital where she underwent emergency surgery for a broken spine and a broken leg.
A concerned compatriot, a nurse, at Al Razi hospital reportedly called the Philippine Embassy to alert them about her case and shortly thereafter, a representative from the embassy came to check on her.
She was discharged from the hospital three days ago and is now being looked after at the Filipino Workers Resource Center or FWRC of the Philippine Overseas Labor Office at the Philippine Embassy.
Screaming and crying in pain even at the slightest movement, she struggled to utter a few words asking H.E. Ambassador Ricardo M. Endaya to seek justice for her and make her employers and the agency answer in court for leaving her maimed, possibly for life.
According to knowledgeable sources, the employers are refusing to cooperate, ignoring summons from the Philippine Embassy to appear and shed light on the matter. Ambassador Endaya also has reportedly called the agency’s representative and the owner to explain their side in allegedly forcing the victim to return to her employers despite knowledge that she was being maltreated.
The Philippine Embassy has retained the services of top caliber Kuwaiti lawyers to handle Christina’s case.
Ambassador Endaya held an emergency meeting Sunday with embassy and POLO staff to discuss cases of abused workers and to remind them of their responsibility as diplomats whose main concern should be the protection of Filipino nationals
Meanwhile, another Filipina is reportedly recuperating at Al Razi hospital for injuries caused by a falling sofa thrown by persons unknown, from atop a building in Bneid Al Gar. She has reportedly been recently transferred to a ward from the Intensive Care Unit.
Investigations are going on to identify the person or persons responsible.
By Boie Conrad Dublin
Arab Times Staff

Expatriates express anger over price hikes

Sara Mustafa
Staff Writer

KUWAIT: A group of expatriates have expressed their anger with the current hike of prices in consumer goods and family supplies, noting that the government promises regarding stopping the hike of prices before Ramadan have not been fulfilled. Many expatriates expected that the international financial crisis would lead to pushing officials to search for ways to create a balance between their salaries and the prices of goods, but are disappointed that the government has not taken steps to do so.
Mohammed Hashim, a Jordanian expatriate living in Kuwait for ten years, noted that in most of the countries all over the world price hikes appear in certain occasions, in contrast with Kuwait, which witnesses continuous prices hikes.
"Some sellers make use of Ramadan to increase the prices of their goods with the absence of censorship from the Ministry of Commerce. Strict legal punishments should be approved to prevent greedy businessmen who increase their prices at every openining without logic or reason,'''' continued Hashim.
Hashim noted that the main problem within the price hikes is that they include staple goods such as meat, vegetables and medicine.
For her part, Fatima Hassan, an Egyptian housewife, urged the government to set a plan that secures essential goods at reasonable prices that suits both citizens and expatriates.
"Five years ago there was a reasonable increase in prices, but now we are astonished at the prices, which increase almost every day. I think that local media should play a positive role in this regard, thus they should spotlight the suffering of expatriates because of the increase in prices. Some people have suggested that the cooperative societies should be turned into shared government companies to facilitate the task of the State to control prices," explained Hassan.
Hassan assured that some immoral practices conducted by consumers has also contributed in escalating the problem, including hoarding unimportant goods to make them rare to find and raising the price.
Finally, Mahdi Ali, an Iranian expatriate, noted that he is not able to balance between the different requirements of his family, which includes medical care, education, food and entertainment.
"The international financial crisis was supposed to push officials to search for ways to make a balance between salaries and prices. In the 1980s and 1970s people used to consider working in the Gulf countries as an immediate means of improving their financial income, but now I think the image has been changed," asserted Ali.
Ali noted that for the first time it easy to find beggars wandering the streets, an obvious indicator that conditions in the Gulf countries has changed.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Seylan Bank’s foreign remittances cross Rs. 12 bn mark in Q2 2009

Seylan Bank PLC has disbursed over Rs. 12.7 bn in foreign remittances for the first half of 2009, thanks to several global money transfer systems such as MoneyGram, Xpress Money, Instant Cash, SAMBA, Speed Cash, Ez Remit and AFX Fast Remit. The SWIFT money remittance service via banks and other financial institutions also made a significant contribution to this volume. Chairman of Seylan Bank, Eastman Narangoda attributed the increase in such foreign remittances to the faith and confidence the Sri Lankan diaspora and expatriate workers living and working overseas had in the newly structured Seylan Bank. “We’re both happy and honoured to assist Sri Lankans overseas to conveniently make remittances to their loved ones at home. Seylan Bank, a pioneer in the inward remittance business, today embraces nearly 170 countries and territories around the world and is spread over around 128,000 locations. We’re indeed proud to service our loyal and growing clientele in the Middle East, Australia, Europe, UK, USA and other parts of the world,” the Chairman said.
“We have, in fact, put in place a totally holistic approach in harnessing the earnings of Sri Lankan expatriates. This not only helps swell the country’s foreign currency reserves, but also facilitates hassle-free remittances to their dependants,” Mr. Narangoda added. The Seylan Bank has harnessed the resources of the print and electronic media to reach Sri Lankan expatriates overseas. The Bank’s website also receives several thousand hits a day from all parts of the world.

The Bank also reaches out to the large Sri Lankan disapora around the world through various societies, welfare associations, sports clubs and foreign missions which organise regular events for Sri Lankan nationals resident in those countries, events such as Independence Day and Sinhala and Tamil New Year celebrations, and events to commemorate Vesak and various cultural shows.

Seylan Bank has also actively teamed up with the numerous popular and well attended musical shows and concerts where Sri Lankan bands and artistes perform, which draw large crowds.

As part of a personalised campaign, officials from the Seylan Bank regularly meet groups of Sri Lankans working overseas and apprise them of the Bank’s value-added foreign currency accounts and range of remittance services offered. This has proved to be a very effective means of communication, bringing the Bank valuable first-hand customer feedback.

In addition to its well developed multi-channel delivery of services, the Bank also maintains a 24 hour, 365 day banking outlet at the Seylan Towers in Colombo 03, that enables the receipt of urgent remittances to beneficiaries in Sri Lanka on a continuous basis.

Two expatriate workers die in Jordan

Two Lankan expatriate workers, a man and a woman, died in Jordan last Saturday allegedly set on fire in a suicide attempt.
The man had allegedly set fire to the woman, his fiancee by throwing highly inflammable liquid and killed himself in the same manner a Spokesman from the Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment (SLBFE) said.

The SLBFE sources said that both had died on admission to a hospital in Jordan and the police are conducting further inquiries. Both the man and the woman had received serious burn injuries when the fire brigade arrived where the incident took place, he said. The 37 years victim man is said to be from Padukka and the woman from Kalutara.

The SLBFE has taken steps to bring down their bodies to Sri Lanka. (H.G)

Detection unit at BIA

Rasika Somarathna

*State Intelligence Service help sought

*Human trafficking third largest criminal industry

Anti-trafficking detection cells to nab possible human traffickers and identify their victims are to be set up at the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) as a part of a series of measures adopted to combat the scourge of modern day slavery in Sri Lanka.

These cells are to be manned by highly trained immigration and law enforcement officials. Identified victims are to be given shelter and assistance while traffickers would be reffered to law enforcement officials.

The officials are to identify potential victims of trafficking, both in coming and out bound.

A comprehensive data base is being developed by the Department of Immigration and Emigration to have as much details as possible on the relevant subject. They recently commissioned a resource center at their headquarters for this.

More muscle to the existing laws and the introduction of new ones are sought by authorities. In addition, help of State Intelligence Service units too have been sought to crackdown on identified criminal elements working behind the scenes.

A co-ordinated approach between relevant Government arms such as the Immigration and Emigration Department, law enforcement officials, foreign employment and child protection authorities too has been mooted.

The latest effort comes in the backdrop of Sri Lanka being identified by a United States based study as a source and destination country for men and women trafficked for the purpose of involuntary servitude and commercial sexual exploitation.

This US annual report on human trafficking which categorises countries into three different tiers according to their identified vulnerable levels, has included Sri Lanka in the tier two watch list. According to sources, Sri Lanka's vulnerability when it comes to human trafficking has being attributed mainly to reasons such as its ever increasing labour migration force, the country's lenient Visa policies where it provides on-arrival Visas to 79 different nationalities and its location as a transport hub in the region. According to Immigration and Emigration Assistant Controller Parakrama Fernando, the new unit to be set up at the BIA would be manned by highly trained personnel.

The Unit would identify traffickers and victims. While the victims would be given shelter and assistance, with the help of both Government and non-Governmental organizations, the identified traffickers would be reffered to law enforcement authorities.

According to Immigration Officer Prabath Aluthge, who mans the newly established resource centre, human trafficking is the third largest and fastest growing criminal industry in the world.

In the Sri Lankan scenario too, officials have identified some underworld and criminal elements behind organized trafficking and matters have being reffered to the CID for investigation.

According to Aluthge, the scope of human trafficking in Sri Lanka is yet to be properly identified, and often people mis-constitute such cases with reported cases of sexual exploitation of women gone abroad.

However men and children too are vulnerable and some find themselves of being in involuntary servitude, when faced with restrictions of movement, withholding of passports, threats, physical or sexual abuse and debt bondage (mainly due to employment agents fees).

According to US Consular Officer Joel Wiegert, the common connection of all trafficking scenarios is the use of force, fraud or coercion to exploit a person for profit.

In Sri Lanka, most such cases could be prevented by the vigilance of scrupulous job agents who warn their clients of the potential risks they face in particular countries and check periodically on them, and teach them the proper steps when faced with an abusive situation.

According to Wiegart, US President Barack Obama views the fight against human trafficking both home and abroad as a critical policy of the US foreign policy. The US Government currently funds 140 anti-trafficking programs in nearly 70 countries including Sri Lanka.

According to Immigration Officer Aluthge, Sri Lanka too is set to adopt an international protocol against organized crime shortly.

In addition Sri Lanka too has taken a number of measures to combat the scourge such as amendments to its penal code in 2006 where trafficking offences has been categorised as a punishable offence by up to 20 years' imprisonment.

However, so far prosecutions and convictions have been lacking and according to sources, practical terms such as the concept of detection cells is the way forward.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Migrants in Japan & Korea

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Japan. There are 2.2 million registered foreigners in Japan, including up to 200,000 foreign trainees and interns. There are also 110,000 unauthorized foreign workers, down from the peak 300,000 in the early 1990s.

Since 1990, nikkeijin, descendants of Japanese emigrants to Latin America a century ago, were allowed to enter Japan to work; most found jobs in smaller factories supplying major Japanese exporters. In 2009, there were an estimated 366,000 Brazilians and Peruvians (workers and families).

As the nikkeijin were laid off in 2008-09, there were contradictory policy responses. The government allocated a billion yen ($10 million) for Japanese language and vocational training in an effort to retain some of the nikkeijin. However, in April 2009 the labor ministry began offering 300,000 yen ($3,000) for each nikkeijin adult who left, and another 200,000 yen for each dependent who departed, provided they agreed not to return to Japan.

Researchers and migrant advocates denounced the return-bonus program, saying that Japan needed to open its borders and integrate foreigners because of low fertility. However, senior political leaders say that they prefer a high-wage smaller and more productive society to a multi-ethnic society like the US.

Japan in June 2009 enacted legislation that within three years will shift responsibility for managing foreign residents from municipalities to the central Immigration Bureau. Foreigners can now receive five-year "zairyu" cards that expedite their travel in and out of Japan. Legal foreigners must be registered on the Juki Net, the nationwide resident registry network that lists data on all Japanese residents in each municipality. Failure to report changes of address or employer within three months can lead to expulsion from Japan.

The number of unauthorized foreigners will be reduced by clarifying the circumstances in which they can receive permission to stay legally, which is expected to bring some forward.

Korea. The number of foreign residents in Korea rose from 50,000 in 1990 to a million in 2008. Between March 2008 and March 2009, employment in Korea fell by almost 200,000 and the unemployment rate rose toward four percent. Some laid-off white-collar workers were reportedly seeking jobs that had been considered migrant jobs, including working in fisheries and in agriculture.

The government took steps to reduce the employment of foreign workers, lowering the intake of foreign workers under the Employment Permit System from 72,000 in 2008 to 34,000 in 2009. Some 60,000 migrant workers are on recruitment lists seeking to work in Korea. Korea has MOUs with 15 Asian countries under which migrant workers arrive under the EPS.

There were 480,000 foreign workers in Korea in February 2009, including 317,000 men and 163,000 women. Some 45 percent of the legal men had E-9 work visas for low-skilled work, while 88 percent of the legal women had H-2 work visit visas issued to ethnic Koreans in China. There were also 200,000 unauthorized workers in Korea, including 67,000 women. Another 109,000 foreign women married Korean men; many work on their husband's farms.

The 191,600 EPS migrant stock in March 2009 included 50,900 Vietnamese; 31,200 Thais; 30,300 Filipinos; 23,600 Indonesians; 18,300 Mongolians; 16,200 Sri Lankans; and 2,800 Nepalese. Over 91 percent of EPS migrants are employed in manufacturing.

Most foreign workers are employed in small firms, those with 30 or fewer workers. These small firms have seen their orders decrease during the recession; many responded by putting their migrant workers on standby, asking them to accept lower wages, or expecting them to do more work for the same pay. Korean migrants admitted under the EPS are entitled to the minimum wage of 3,770 ($3) an hour, but many, expecting to earn a million won a month with overtime, paid fees to recruiters anticipating higher-than-minimum wage salaries.

Korea has unions and NGOs that advocate on behalf of migrants. Laid-off migrants are permitted to remain in Korea for up to 60 days to search for a new employer. In spring 2009, most Vietnamese migrants who were laid off were able to find new Korean employers, given the reputation of the Vietnamese for hard work; many laid-off workers from other countries were less successful at finding new jobs.

Some migrants leave Korea before the end of their three-year EPS contracts. Filipino unions said that 5,000 of the 17,000 Filipinos sent to Korea under the EPS returned before their three-year contracts ended.

Many rural men in Korea marry foreign women from Vietnam, China and the Philippines— 40 percent of marriages in rural Korea in 2008 involved foreign brides.

Minoru Matsutani, "Immigration revision set to be passed," Japan Times, June 19, 2009. Hiroko Tabuchi, "Japan Pays Foreign Workers to Go Home," New York Times, April 23, 2009.

South Asia

Bangladesh. Some 645,779 Bangladeshis went abroad to work in the fiscal year ending June 30, 2009; remittances totaled $9.7 billion in 2008/09 from the 5.6 million Bangladeshis abroad, including two million in Saudi Arabia.

Many of the Bangladeshis completing three-year contracts abroad are being told to return to Bangladesh for a year or more rather than having their contracts renewed as in the past. Almost 71,000 Bangladeshi migrants were sent home without renewals or before the end of their contracts in 2008/09.

The government hopes to send at least 500,000 migrants abroad in 2009/10, citing new destinations that include Romania, Australia, Canada, Russia, South Africa, Sudan and Algeria.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina visited Bangladeshi migrants in Saudi Arabia in April 2009 and promised to establish an Expatriate Bank that would offer remittance transfers via mobile phones, introduce machine-readable passports, and modernize Bangladesh Biman Airlines. Minister of Expatriates' Welfare and Overseas Employment Khandker Mosharraf Hossain in May 2009 said that the most important issue facing Bangladeshi migrants was the debt they assumed to go abroad. He said: "We are trying to make sure that overseas jobseekers do not need to sell land or borrow money to go abroad for jobs. Expatriates Bank, which is to open soon, will help solve their credit problems."

Hasina also promised to provide other benefits to migrants, including incentives for them to invest in the planned special economic zones to be created in Bangladesh. Saudi Arabia requires the children of migrants in the country to leave at 18; Hasina promised to discuss the issue of the Bangladeshi children of expatriates in Saudi Arabia having to leave at 18 even if their parents remain employed in Saudi Arabia.

In both Bangladesh and Pakistan, over 70 percent of exports are garments and textiles; Bangladesh had garment exports of $11 billion in 2008, a year in which remittances were $9 billion ($9.7 billion in fiscal year 2008/09 ending June 30, 2009, up from $7.9 billion in 2007/08). Some 2.5 million workers are employed in Bangladeshi garment factories, 40 percent of Bangladesh's industrial work force. Over 80 percent of Bangladeshi garment workers are young women from rural areas who work in the greater Dhaka area; garment factory owners have asked for subsidies to avoid closure.

An alternative would be to send more workers abroad. The government officially began to send workers abroad in 1976, when 6,100 were deployed. By 1986, over 68,000 migrants went abroad, and by 1996, deployments surpassed 211,000. Over the next decade, deployments rose slowly, to 382,000 in 2006, but in 2007 deployments jumped to 832,600 and in 2008 to 875,000. Remittances did not rise as fast as deployments— they were $5.5 billion in 2006, and $9 billion in 2008.

About 80 percent of Bangladeshi migrants go to Gulf oil exporters (almost half to Saudi Arabia) and 10 percent to Malaysia. Half are classified as low-skilled.

India. The Emigration Act of 1983 requires low-skilled Indians seeking work abroad to obtain "emigration clearances;" some 845,000 were issued in 2008, primarily to Indians going to the Gulf oil exporters. A proposed new law regulating migration would rate the 1,800 recruiting agencies.

India's trade group Nasscom predicted that revenue from outsourcing by foreign companies would reach $50 billion in India in 2010, up from $47 billion in 2009. Indians say that the recession has not curbed growth in US wages and health care costs enough to slow outsourcing.

One Indian outsourcer said that, to avoid a protectionist outcry, the firm begins to work abroad with Indian guest workers, it then moves the work and jobs to a second country, and finally shifts the work to India. Fast-growing sectors in India work for doctors to schedule patients in the US and Europe and conduct due diligence for business and real estate deals in other countries.

The former CEO of Infosys Technologies in June 2009 agreed to join the Congress-led government that was re-elected in May 2009 for a second five-year term and lead an effort to issue national ID cards to all Indians within five years.

India has about 3.2 million university graduates a year, but employers say that only a quarter are immediately employable. An education advisor to the prime minister said: "our education system churns out people, but industry does not find them useful. The necessary development of skills is missing in our education."

About 20 percent of the graduates, 650,000 a year, have engineering degrees. However, IT outsourcer Wipro says that fewer than a quarter of new engineering graduates are employable immediately because of poor-quality teaching in universities.

The Indian economy was expected to be spared the worst of the global recession, but a sharp decline in foreign investment slowed economic activity.

Sri Lanka. Foreign Employment Promotion and Labor Welfare Minister Keheliya Rambukwella in June 2009 said that the deployment of migrants has not been slowed by the global recession. There are about 550,000 Sri Lankan migrants in Saudi Arabia; 80 percent are female domestic helpers.

Sri Lanka received $2.9 billion in remittances in 2008 from the estimated 1.8 million Sri Lankan migrants abroad.

Nepal. Nepal wants to continue sending workers to Korea under the EPS, which allows most migrants employed in small Korean factories to earn $1,000 a month. Almost 7,000 Nepalese have passed the Korean language test, and 2,600 have been sent to Korea since 2004.

Nepal's economy is hurting, as garment factories close, tourism drops, and more migrants return from abroad. A 2006 agreement ended a long-running Maoist insurgency, but it has been very hard to restore economic growth.

Porimol Palma, "Compensation up, but families in dark," Daily Star, May 26, 2009. Rama Lakshmi, "In India, Educated but Unemployable Youths," Washington Post, May 4, 2009.

South Asia: A Special Report

Labor migration from South Asia mostly involves: (1) workers going to work with two- or three-year contracts to the Gulf oil exporters; (2) a high share of women leaving to be domestic helpers from countries such as Sri Lanka (and few women from Bangladesh and Pakistan); and, (3) heavy reliance on private recruiters in both sending and receiving countries and high costs for migrants. These labor migration patterns raise issues from irregular migration to the vulnerability of female domestic helpers in private homes in conservative Gulf societies.

The ILO uses its 2006 Multilateral Framework on Labor Migration (MLF) to bring together unions, employers and governments to discuss ways of protecting the rights of migrants and ensuring that migration accelerates development in labor-sending countries ( For example, since many South Asian migrants rely on private recruiters, the MLF calls for issuing standardized and enforceable contracts to migrants, many of whom do not fully understand what they sign, eliminating or regulating fees charged by recruiters, and developing standardized systems to license and regulate recruiters.

The five major South Asia labor-sending countries sent over 1.5 million migrant workers abroad legally in 2005--India sent 549,000 migrants; Bangladesh, 253,000; Sri Lanka, 231,000; Nepal, 184,000; and Pakistan, 142,000. The number of migrants deployed rose in each country by 2007, for instance, the number of Indians deployed in 2007 was 800,000, the number of Bangladeshis 833,000, and the number of Pakistanis, 265,000.

There were 24 million South Asians abroad in 2000, including nine million Indians (four million in the Gulf countries), almost seven million Bangladeshis (most in India, but three million in the Gulf countries), and 3.5 million Pakistanis abroad, including 1.5 million in other South Asian countries and almost a million in the Gulf countries. The South Asian Diaspora includes almost 10 percent Afghanis.

The five major South Asia labor-sending countries received $40 billion in remittances in 2007, led by $27 billion in India; $6.4 billion in Bangladesh; $6.1 billion in Pakistan; $2.7 billion in Sri Lanka; and $1.6 billion in Nepal. Most South Asians earn $200 to $400 a month in the Gulf oil exporting states.

As labor migration becomes more important, South Asian countries are developing specialized agencies to promote and protect migrant workers. Sri Lanka in 2007 created a Ministry of Foreign Employment Promotion and Welfare, and both Bangladesh and Pakistan have similar specialized ministries or agencies to "market" their country's workers to foreign employers, process the contracts that allow them to go abroad legally, and regulate the recruiters who place most migrants in foreign jobs.

Bangladesh. Bangladesh is a country of 150 million people with an area the size of Iowa, making it one of the world's most densely populated countries. The country is poor, with per capita gross national income of about $480 a year in 2006, according to the World Bank, half the level of India ($820) and Pakistan ($770) and a third the level of Sri Lanka ($1,300).

Garments generate the most foreign exchange, about $8 billion a year, half of which are knitwear or ready-made garments. However, Bangladesh imports over $5 billion worth of fabric, buttons and other inputs to produce garments, making the value added about 35 percent. Some 2.5 million mostly young women cut fabric, operate sewing machines, and sort garments six days and 48 hours a week for a base wage of 1,662 taka ($24) a month, plus about $10 a month in overtime pay. Most of the young women are from villages, and most work in garment factories less than four years.

Bangladesh's second leading source of foreign exchange is remittances, $6.6 billion in 2007, including a third from Saudi Arabia. The number of migrants leaving Bangladesh averaged 250,000 a year between 2001 and 2005, rose to almost 400,000 in 2006, and doubled to 832,600 in 2007. The government expects to send 900,000 workers abroad in 2008. The government reported that 315,000 migrants left in the first six months of 2008, fewer than the 510,000 who received permission to leave for foreign jobs.

According to government data, 60 percent of Bangladeshi migrants leave on their own, 39 percent leave with the help of recruiters, and one percent leave via government and other channels. However, most of the 60 percent who leave "on their own" in fact leave with the help of agents who coach migrants to say they are leaving on their own. By going "independently," the government loses a tool to check and ensure that the foreign job is genuine. Independent migrants have little recourse if the job turns out to be something other than promised.

When there are problems, most Bangladeshi recruiting agents say that they are victims of employers and recruiters abroad. Most Gulf countries require employers to pay passport, visa and travel costs for the migrant workers they hire. However, recruiters in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait often keep much of this employer-paid fee, which means that Bangladeshi agents charge migrants for passports, visas and travel costs and rarely issue receipts.

Some Gulf employers request work visas for non-existent jobs. Since sponsor visas have value in Bangladesh and other labor-sending countries, Gulf families entitled to up to eight domestic helpers, guards, gardeners etc can sell eight work visas but employ only four foreign workers.

Bangladeshis say the over-recruitment problem in the Gulf is worsening. Some Gulf employers reportedly sell sponsorships to the highest bidder, which may be an Indian-owned recruiting firm in Saudi Arabia. This recruiting firm, in turn, may auction the visas among Bangladeshi agencies that in turn recruit more migrants than there are (fictitious) jobs, charging each migrant for passports, visas, health checks and transportation. In this manner, Bangladeshi migrants can wind up in the Gulf in debt and in an irregular status.

Gulf countries look at over-recruitment for non-existent jobs as a Bangladeshi problem, while Bangladeshis see the Gulf system of requiring foreign workers to have a local sponsor as the root problem. Over-recruitment of Bangladeshis is also common in Malaysia, which does not have a sponsorship system.

The actual cost of migrating from Bangladesh to the Gulf is about $1,200, half of which covers airfare and half for passport and visa costs, health checks and other certificates. Most Bangladeshi male migrants pay $2,000 for jobs that will pay them $200 a month or less, meaning that recruitment costs are equivalent to almost a year's salary on a typical two- or three-year contract. Bangladeshi women going to Gulf countries to be domestic helpers pay less, about $850, and earn less, about $150 a month, in part because some Gulf households prefer Muslim helpers.

Seen another way, each 100,000 Bangladeshi migrants deployed generates about $80 million in recruitment "profits." Reaching the government's goal of sending a million migrants a year abroad could generate $800 million in recruitment revenues above the actual costs of sending workers abroad.

The Bangladeshi recruitment industry is hard to evaluate because the firms are private and most payments are made by migrants in villages to sub-agents who are not licensed or registered and do not issue receipts. Some Dhaka-based recruiters say they know nothing about the activities of subagents, who are usually residents of the village in which they collect payments from migrants, so that migrants tend to trust them. Requiring that receipts be issued to migrants for all payments is a common recommendation to protect migrants.

Half of the Bangladeshis abroad in 2007 were classified as unskilled, a third as skilled, and 15 percent as semi-skilled; less than four percent were classified as professionals. Bangladesh discourages women from working abroad, but lifted a ban on women going abroad to be domestic helpers in 2003. There are a number of government and private agencies that aim to provide skills training for Bangladeshis interested in higher-wage foreign jobs, but it is not clear whether the credentials they issue are recognized abroad.

Before departing, Bangladeshi migrants receive a pre-departure orientation about the country to which they are going and their rights while abroad. At this juncture, it is too late for most migrants to withdraw, since they have already gone into debt to go abroad and most will have no way to repay the debt without foreign wages.

Once abroad, migrants can be presented with a different contract that offers lower wages or a different situation than is laid out in their contract, for instance, they must work for two families rather than one or are assigned to an employer who abuses them; passports are often retained by the foreign employer. Most migrants feel they must accept the changes rather than return because of their pre-departure debt.

Saudi, Kuwaiti and other Gulf households pay fees to local recruiters for domestic helpers, gardeners and other foreign workers. Most offer "90-day guarantees" to employers, meaning that if the first migrant is not acceptable, the recruiter will send another without charging a second fee. Migrants who believe that the household is abusive can leave within 90 days and have their return airfare guaranteed, forcing the agency to pay another airfare for a replacement. Many agencies encourage employers not to pay any wages during the first 90 days, so that a migrant breaking the contract would return empty-handed.

Most labor-sending countries have labor attaches to look after the needs of migrant workers from their country. Common problems are too few labor attaches and foreign-service officers from the elite who are not sympathetic to nationals employed in low-level jobs. Embassies and consulates are often closed on days when migrants have days off, and Bangladesh does not provide travel funds to enable labor attaches to visit migrants outside major cities in large countries such as Saudi Arabia. Bangladeshi labor attaches can also be abrupt, saying that migrants expect them to listen to their problems, which range from loneliness to abuse, and say they must be abrupt because there are so many migrants.

The Bangladeshi government allocates a fraction of its budget to managing migration, well under a tenth of one percent, even though remittances are equivalent to almost 10 percent of the country's $70 billion GDP.

Unlike the Philippines and Indonesia, Bangladesh does not have safe houses in countries with large numbers of migrants to shelter those who run away. The government in 1990 created a welfare fund for migrants, with funds raised via fees on migrants, a 10 percent surcharge on fees paid for services at migrant missions abroad, and other sources. However, there is no plan to spend the funds raised in any systematic way to assist Bangladeshi migrants abroad. If a Bangladeshi migrant dies abroad, the fund provides about $1,450 to the migrant's family, which may be less than the loans incurred to go abroad.

Many mis-understandings lead to deportation rather than resolution, as when a Saudi employer cancels the work permit of a gardener in order to sell another work permit but does not tell the gardener, which makes him illegal if detected by police. Some Saudi employers deny they continued to employ the gardener after the visa was cancelled, and the migrant is often deported before there can be a resolution of the case.

Bangladesh hopes to send more workers to Malaysia. After Bangladeshi workers were left stranded at the Kuala Lumpur airport, Malaysia banned Bangladeshi workers until October 22, 2006. The Malaysian government withdrew the ban but re-imposed it after more migrants were stranded at the airport in 2008.

The stock of Bangladeshis abroad, including those who naturalized abroad, was estimated at between five and eight million in 2008.

India. The major legislation governing labor migration from India is the Emigration Act of 1983 on Overseas Recruitment. It established "protectors of emigrants" (POE) offices and required Indians leaving for foreign jobs to obtain certificates from POEs before departure to ensure that they would not be vulnerable in their foreign jobs. However, 13 categories of persons are exempt from this POE emigration certificate requirement, including those with 10 or more years of schooling.

India issues two types of passports— those for which an emigration check is required before departure and those that do not require an emigration check. Holders of "emigration check required" passports can nonetheless leave without a POE check for most countries, but need POE permission to travel to 18 countries, including the Gulf oil exporters and Malaysia and Libya.

The 1983 Act also required recruiters to register and created three categories of recruiters based on the number of migrants sent abroad. Registered recruitment agencies (RRAs) that send fewer than 300 workers abroad must post a bond of 300,000 rupees ($7,100), those that send 301-1,000 migrants a year must post a 500,000 rupee bond, and those that send more than 1,000 must post a one million rupee bond.

There were 1,835 RRAs in 2007. Recruiters pay service fees to the POEs that reflect the skill of the workers they send abroad. For instance, they pay 2,000 rupees ($47) to clear the contract of an unskilled worker; 3,000 rupees for semi-skilled workers; and 5,000 rupees for skilled workers.

The government acknowledges that its regulatory system results in corruption and exploitation. Some POE offices work closely with favored recruiters, who may receive payments from foreign employers but nonetheless charge Indian migrants for their services. Some Indian recruiters give intending migrant workers "free visas," telling them that they are free to work for any Gulf employer (there are no such visas), or charge for visit visas that prohibit work.

About two-thirds of Indian migrant workers leave from South India (20 percent each from Kerala and Tamil Nedu). Over 95 percent of India's migrants move to the Gulf oil exporters.

Some 1.8 million Kerala residents are abroad, and remittances of $5 billion a year are equivalent to 20 percent of Kerala state's GDP. About a quarter of remittances to Kerala are spent on education, but educating residents who cannot find jobs locally leads to emigration; unemployment in Kerala is almost 20 percent.

Kerala is a state of 32 million with a per capita income of $675, below the $730 India average. Kerala has a higher literacy rate than the rest of India, reflecting the decision of the Communist-led Kerala government to spend more than other Indian states on education and health. However, Kerala is not considered friendly to business, which allegedly deters investment by multinationals.

A survey of Indian migrants found that 80 percent learned of foreign jobs from friends and relatives. The average migrant paid $1,200 to migrate if they used personal networks and a third turned to money lenders to cover these pre-departure costs. Migrants using recruitment agents paid more, an average $2,000, to cover the cost of the foreign work visa, passport, medical tests, insurance and the airfare to the job.

About 60 percent of the jobs held by the Indians in the Gulf paid $200 a month, making recruitment costs equivalent to six to 10 months' earnings. Some Indian migrants reported much lower wages, often $100 a month, while 10 percent earned $500 or more a month in the Gulf.

Once they reach the Gulf, many Indian migrants say they are required to sign new contracts with lower wages, are assigned more tasks than expected, or do not receive promised benefits, such as time off and return airfare. Indian recruiters say that the source of many of these problems lies in the Gulf states, blaming the need to purchase work permits from Gulf-based agents; they also allege that Gulf-based agents keep transportation and other fees paid by employers.

Reformers would like to eliminate emigration-check-required passports, make it illegal for Indian recruiters to charge fees to Indian migrants, and have the Indian government negotiate minimum wages for Indian migrants abroad. The Indian government has signed MOUs with Jordan, Qatar, UAE and Kuwait, and in August 2008 announced MOUs with Malaysia, Oman and Bahrain. India's Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs is negotiating social security agreements with European countries that can exempt Indian migrants from contributing or refund their contributions when they leave the country.

Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka is the smallest but richest of the four major South Asian labor exporters, with 20 million residents, a labor force of about 7.6 million, and an estimated 1.6 million citizens abroad, mostly in the Gulf oil-exporting states.

Like the other South Asian countries sending workers abroad, male Sri Lankan construction workers were deployed to Gulf oil-exporting countries in the mid-1970s. The number of workers deployed was relatively small--in the mid-1980s, there were fewer than 15,000 Sri Lankan workers a year sent abroad, and three-fourths were men. However, the number of Sri Lankan migrants and the share of women rose rapidly in the late 1980s and 1990s, as the Sri Lankan government promoted out-migration as a way to provide jobs in an economy increasingly distorted by a civil war.

Outmigration peaked at 231,000 in 2005, when almost 60 percent of the Sri Lankan migrants were women, most from rural areas and finding their first wage-paying job in a foreign household. About 80 percent of Sri Lankan migrants go to four countries, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, UAE, and Qatar; 45 percent are female domestic helpers.

Like other South Asian countries, the Sri Lankan government wants to send more skilled workers abroad and fewer domestic helpers, which generally means more men and fewer women. Kingsley Ranawaka, chairman of Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment, said "We want to reduce the number of women migrant workers mainly because of complaints we received from those in Middle East countries." The SLBFE reported 3,400 complaints from female migrants in the first half of 2008, most involving harassment, breach of contract and unpaid or underpaid salaries.

Since January 1, 2008, Sri Lankan domestic helpers in the UAE must be paid at least Dh 825 ($225) a month. The Sri Lankan consulate in Dubai reported that the number of domestic helper contracts rose from an average 650 a month in 2007 to 1,000 a month in 2008. Beginning in August 2008, households in the UAE will have to pay Dh200 ($55) for an insurance policy to cover death and repatriation benefits for Sri Lankan domestic helpers. The insurance, applies to newly hired Sri Lankan workers in private homes, provides up to Dh 30,000 ($8,175) in death benefits.

To help change the composition of its migrants, the Sri Lankan government created a Ministry of Foreign Employment Promotion and Welfare in 2007 and charged it with "promoting" foreign employment by undertaking marketing missions, upgrading the training of Sri Lankan workers seeking foreign jobs, and protecting migrants and their families. The MFEPW in September 2008 announced that it would sign MOUs governing labor migration to France, Poland and Romania by early 2009, adding to the list of countries with MOUs governing labor migration. Sri Lanka has signed MOUs with Bahrain, Jordan, Korea, Kuwait and the UAE, and is negotiating MOUs with Japan, Malaysia and Saudi Arabia.

The SLBFE, which implements Sri Lankan migration policies, is a public corporation with 800 employees that, for instance, sends some migrants abroad under MOUs (notably to Korea), licenses and regulates labor recruiters, and protects migrants by reviewing their contracts before departure. The SLBFE is supported by migrant, employer and recruiter paid fees.

The creation of a new ministry to promote out-migration highlights the growing role of migration and remittances to the Sri Lankan economy. Remittances topped $2.5 billion in 2007, making them almost 10 percent of Sri Lankan's $27 billion GDP. Out-migration and remittances are generally welcomed, but garment pioneer K. C. Vignarajah complained that remittances have allowed the Sri Lankan rupee to become overvalued, threatening the garment sector.

According to Vignarajah, over 200 Sri Lankan garment factories closed between 2006 and 2008, prompting laid off women "to seek employment as maids in the Middle East. These suffering women send back their toiled earnings which props up the rupee even further and the vicious cycle of uncompetitive industry goes on… The country needs to decide whether it wants its families intact, with the people employed in the country, productively and export their products, or export the women and create disharmony in families and bring forth a rotten culture."

The SLBFE in July 2008 announced that its income rose from 40 million Sri Lankan rupees ($370,000) in the first five months in 2007 to 212 million rupees ($2 million) in the first five months of 2008. It attributed the jump to more skilled migrants who pay higher fees. In a reversal of usual patterns, during the first five months of 2008, most Sri Lankan migrants going abroad were men.

The Sri Lankan government, like many other labor-sending governments, would like to require foreign employers to pay migrants a minimum wage that it sets. However, it is difficult to enforce a minimum wage set in Sri Lanka abroad. The SLBFE in July 2008 announced that newly deployed Sri Lankan workers employed in foreign garment factories would have to be paid at least 22,000 rupees ($200) a month. There are an estimated 10,000 Sri Lankans employed in garment factories from Egypt and Mauritius to Bahrain.

In Bahrain, 200 Sri Lankan garment workers went on strike in July 2008 after they were paid only BD 40 ($106) a month, not the BD 60 ($160) they expected. Sri Lanka has an MOU with Bahrain, and was able to resolve the dispute.

Nepal. Nepal is the poorest of the major South Asian countries sending workers abroad; the average per capita income of the 28 million residents was under $300 in 2006. Nepal's GDP expanded by only 2.7 percent a year between 2000 and 2006, a third of the rate in India, in part because of a Maoist insurgency between 1996 and 2006.

A combination of peace, a UN peacekeeping force, and remittances from migrants contributed to prosperity in 2008. Some 200,000 migrants left in Nepal in 2007 for Malaysia and Gulf oil exporters such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the UAE (more went to India). Migration is changing Nepalese villages, where peasants borrow up to $3,000 to send young men abroad for two or three years to earn $200 to $400 a month.