Daily Mirror – 10th November 2009
Sri Lankan migrant workers in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia say they have been living under a bridge seeking help from the authorities to come back home.
One Sri Lankan worker who wished to be anonymous told BBC Sinhala service that nearly 3000 migrant workers, including Sri Lankans, have been living under the Sharafiya bridge in the Saudi capital for months.
"We all have been house maids or in factory workers and were forced to leave the workplace due to various harassments or as a result of not being paid by the employers. Now we are stranded here having no means to go back home," he said.
Many stranded workers neither have money nor food, unless some passers by offer something to eat, he added.
"There are some who have been living under this bridge for over one year," he said.
He accused the Sri Lankan authorities of not taking efforts to send them home.
Rejecting the accusation, the Sri Lankan authorities say the workers, who have overstayed their visa in Saudi Arabia , are using the bridge as a tactical move to leave the country without paying a penalty fee.
Kingsly Ranawaka, chairman of Foreign Employment Bureau, told BBC Sandeshaya that Sri Lanka has repatriated nearly 5000 similar workers over the last 17 months.
"When migrants come to this place the Saudi government offer them free air tickets and send them home," he said.
He added that the government will take steps to bring the workers home but warned that another group will replace the current migrants as soon as they were removed. (BBC Sinhala)