Sunday, December 12, 2010

Rizana's release - Govt.ready to pay blood money

by Ananda Kannangara

Foreign Employment Promotion Minister Dilan Perera yesterday assured that the Government was prepared to pay blood money to the parents of the victimised Saudi child at any moment to release the convicted Sri Lankan housemaid Rizana Nasik.

The Saudi Arabian King last week withheld the death sentence passed by the Daw Admi High Courts in Saudi Arabia against Rizana Nasik following a request by President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

According to Saudi law, the housemaid could now be pardoned only by the parents of the victimised child.

Nineteen-year old Rizana Nasik of Mutur was sentenced to death by a Saudi Court in February 2005 for strangling a four-month-old baby to death while being bottle-fed.

Minister Perera said according to the Sharia law, Rizana could be released if the dead child's parents gives a pardon for the victim.

According to Sri Lanka 's former Ambassador in Saudi Arabia Abdul Mohamed Marleen, when the case was taken up for hearing at the Daw Admi High Courts, the father of the dead child was also summoned before the court.

Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment (SLBFE) chairman, Kingsley Ranawaka said that the Lankan Government has discussed this matter extensively with labour officials in Saudi Arabia , Lankan Foreign Ministry officials and legal professionals here to save Rizana's life.

Chairman Ranawaka said that the SLBFE had also pleaded with the Saudi Arabian Government for clemency for Rizana Nasik's life saying that she had committed the alleged crime when she was only 17.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

More than 20 nails

By Pushpa Kumara Jayaratne

The Government has called for a full report from Sri Lanka ’s envoy in Kuwait City in connection with the second case of an alleged nailing of a housemaid by her Arab employer in that country, a senior official said yesterday.

Letchumi in hospital

External Affairs Minitry’s Consular Affairs director Somadasa Wijeysundera said a report was expected in Colombo tomorrow and thereafter follow up action would be taken. He said Sri Lanka ’s envoy K.S.C. Dissanayake has already taken up the matter with Kuwaiti authorities and was expected to provide a feed back to Colombo .

The victim- V. R. Letchumi 30, a resident of Ibbagamauwa Gokarella had alleged that her employer and two other members of the family had repeatedly inserted nails into her body when she asked about her wages.Doctors operating on the victim at the Kurunegala Hospital have already removed nine nails from her right hand and left foot. X-rays and scans show there are at least another 14 such objects in her body and these will be removed in the coming days, hospital officials say.

sunday Times

Saudi King responds to plea for Rizana

Sunday Times

Saudi King responds to plea for Rizana
By Leon Berenger

Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud has directed officials to hold talks with the household in which a Sri Lankan female domestic is alleged to have murdered a toddler in her charge as discreet diplomatic efforts were underway to secure her release, a senior official said yesterday.

The maid-Rizana Razeek has been placed on death row after Saudi Arabia ’s highest court found her guilty of smothering the child to death. The maid has denied the charges saying that the child had choked during a milk feed.

The External Affairs Ministry’s Consular Chief Somadasa Wijeysundera said the King was responding to President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s appeal seeking clemency for Rizana. Apart from the King, the dead child’s parents could also give a pardon or settle for blood money, Mr. Wijeysundera said.

Meanwhile several other diplomatic efforts have been stepped up both in Riyadh and other foreign capitals to gather support for the release of the maid, he added. “Our envoys in several countries both in the West and elsewhere are working closely with those respective countries towards this end. The response is encouraging but the process is slow because it needs a lot of diplomatic patience and understanding,” he said.

According to reliable information even Britain ’s Prince Charles is reported to have approached the Saudi Royal family seeking clemency for Rizana.

Sun, 14 November,

Maid tortured in Jordan

Daily Mirror - Novembere 15, 2010

Sri Lanka is probing allegations that one of its nationals employed in Jordan was forced to swallow nails, in the third case involving alleged torture in three months.

A housemaid identified as D M Chandima has told the Sri Lankan diplomatic mission in Amman that her employer forced her to swallow six nails, an official at the Foreign Employment Bureau of Sri Lanka said on Sunday.

"We are awaiting a full report from doctors," said the head of the bureau, Kingsley Ranawaka, adding that the authorities would decide on the next steps after looking at the medical evidence.

The report came as another Sri Lankan housemaid who had been working in Kuwait accused her employer of driving 14 wire nails into her body as punishment for failing in her work.

The woman, identified only as Lechchami, 38, underwent surgery to have the nails removed after returning home to Sri Lanka , the director of the hospital in the northwestern town of Kurunegala said on Saturday.

The doctor said the woman had told surgeons that her Kuwaiti employers drove the nails -- some as long as 3.5cm -- into her hands and left leg when she asked for her salary after working for six months.

Police said the case was under investigation.

In August, another housemaid complained her Saudi employer drove 24 nails into her arms, legs and forehead as punishment. Most of them were removed by surgeons in Sri Lanka .

The Saudi government and private sector officials in Riyadh have questioned the credibility of the woman's allegations.

About 1.8 million Sri Lankans are employed abroad, of whom 70 per cent are women. Most work as housemaids in the Middle East while smaller numbers work in Singapore and Hong Kong , seeking higher salaries than they would get at home.

Non-governmental organisations report frequent cases of employer abuse of maids who work abroad.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Rizana is a victim of non existence of Human Rights in Saudi Arabia , continues brutality and lack of international condemnation of Saudi Arabia .

SANRIM as a migrant workers advocacy initiative strongly condemn the failure of Sri Lankan state on substantial legal interventions to save and protect the interest of Rizana Nafeek. We take this opportunity to extend our solidarity with Rizanas family on this sorrowful moment and we are proud of their courage. We understand the entire scenario of Rizana with state irresponsibility and inability of the state to challenge Saudi Arabian Human Rights failures and violation of international legal norms.

The prime argument brought in favor of the Rizana Nafeek case was that, at the time of arrest she was a minor and minors shouldn’t be subject to capitol punishment. SANRIM also question the Sri Lankan state for its failure of challenging capitol punishment use by Saudi Arabian state and continues Human Rights violation and brutality. SANRIM understands that violations of Human Rights and UN Conventions are the prime cause of Rizana Nafeek case. Saudi Arabian state undermine the Human Rights standards ,UN conventions and internationally accepted legal frameworks which Rizana Nafeek became a victim of it.

We also take this opportunity to remind the world that world needs to seriously protest on the brutality of Saudi Arabian state on their brutality towards their own nationals and foreign workers. Every year there are over 100 people are being executed in a extremely brutal manner and many others experiences uncivilized brutality for the crimes that many civilized countries use correctional approach. Many Sri Lankans were executed over the past three decades and in many cases there were no support systems for the families and compensation for the dead.

SANRIM also watching over unconditional international protection that USA government provides towards Saudi Arabia which hindered international pressure over Saudi Arabia on their brutality and Human Rights violations. The double standards that USA practice in international arena continue to provide safety nets to undemocratic states to continue their evil practices.

We urge Sri Lankan people to condemn the Saudi Arabia as a state of Human Rights violators and perpetrators and request USA government to take strong stands on Saudi Arabia . We also urge Sri Lankan government to take this matter at the UN Human Rights Council and challenge the Saudi brutality with the Saudi Ambassador in Sri Lanka .

Lakshan.J. S. Dias- Attorney At Law ,
Chairperson – SANRIM,

Housemaid At National Hospital Alleges She Was Assaulted By Three Sons In Master’s House

•X-rays reveal possible nerve damage in woman who returned from Saudi Arabia
By Ranee Mohamed

Raja Kumari
Perumal Raja Kumari (35) a mother of three who arrived at the Bandaranaike International Airport on November 2 was admitted to the National Hospital in Colombo after she began staggering — suffering from blackouts, bruises, dizziness and pain in the ears.
“My sister arrived at the airport carrying a bag given by an airline. She had in her possession only her passport, her identity card and the mobile phone which she took from Sri Lanka ,” said her brother P. Subramaniam, speaking to The Sunday Leader.
“She could speak to us intelligibly only after she was given immediate medication and a saline drip . X-rays have also been taken and we are awaiting results of investigations to find out whether there has been any damage to her nerves,” said Subramaniam.
A resident of 65/11, Balika Road , Pahala Kosgama, Kosgama, Raja Kumari, speaking to The Sunday Leader from Ward No. 37 of the National Hospital said that she went to Saudi Arabia on April 28, 2010. ‘I had to go to Saudi Arabia because of my mother aged 65 and my father aged 75. I have three children, one of my sons is half-blind. My parents and my children depend on me for support. My husband abandoned me 13 years ago,” she said.
“I worked very hard in the home I was taken to. The Madam and Sir had seven offspring. Of them four sons were married. I had to work in their houses too. I had to wake up at 4.30 a.m. and clean the outside of the home I was assigned to work in – wash the bathrooms outside and then the garden. Then I had to clean the inside of the house and wash the bathrooms inside the house. When the Madam wakes up at 10.30 a.m.
I had to clean the bedrooms. Then I had to wipe each item in the refrigerator and wipe every object in the kitchen. Then I had to help to make the breakfast. The fried eggs and cream cheese and milk were never given to me during my six month stay. I was given one roti or half a roti and a tea for the morning. Lunch was at 6 p.m. and consisted of boiled rice on which a drizzle of tomato purée was poured over. There was never any fish, meat or vegetables,” said Raja Kumari.
Raja Kumari said that dinner was a shaky affair. “Sometimes, they would give me a few bits of macaroni in which there were a few onions and a piece of tomato. But at most times they would ‘forget’ to give me dinner. Yet I worked very hard, not only in the parental household but in the homes of the offspring too. If I cleaned well, Madam would yell at me that I was having eyes for the master and that was why I was cleaning well. If I did not clean thoroughly, she would yell at me for not cleaning well. It was a case of screaming at me day and night. Sometimes she would tell her sons that I had eyes for the master and they would all yell at me and threaten me with bodily harm,” cried Raja Kumari.
“But I suffered all this because of my children. Then for five months they did not pay me. I was begging for my salary. My children and my parents in Sri Lanka were undergoing severe hardship for want of money. I begged my Sir and Madam for my salary, but they did not pay me. Instead Madam would scream at me for asking for my salary. They did not give me dinner for 10 nights. They did not give me a paracetamol for an ailment. Then on October 27 at 10. a.m I packed my bags and walked out of the house while Madam was talking on the telephone.
“I walked to the police station which was in the neighbourhood. At 1.00 p.m one of the sons came to the police station. He spoke to me kindly and asked why I left. I told him about my problems and he said that he will bring me my salary. At 10 p.m. I was sent to the Sri Lankan Embassy. The older son came there and told me that three months salary was being deducted for the making of my documents and Saudi Riyal 750 was required to buy a ticket. He gave me a balance of SR 650. He said that he will arrive on November 2 to take me to the airport,” recalled Raja Kumari.
“He arrived at the Sri Lankan Embassy at about 7.30 p.m. to take me to the airport. The moment I got into the vehicle, there was an immediate locking sound from all the doors. He did not take me to the airport, but took me to the house. The vehicle stopped near the door of the house and I tried to get off and run away. But three of the sons in the house ran behind me and pulled me into the house. Then they locked all doors, grabbed my bags. They took back the money that they gave me and began to assault me. Many of the blows were directed above my neck. One of the shots near my ear made blood spurt out. Yet the hitting continued. There was no pause, they were merciless,” alleged Raja Kumari.
“I hugged the Madam, pleaded with her to make them stop. But she asked them to carry on. The men pulled clumps of hair out of my head. Look at my forehead,” alleged Raja Kumari, showing portions of bare areas in her head. “ One of the kicks from he men sent me flying from one corner to another. They tore my handbag, photographs of my children and my clothes,” she cried.
“Then Madam asked me to remove my clothes and checked my undergarments to see whether I had stolen anything. The men were looking on,” said Raja Kumari.
Raja Kumari said however that she had not experienced any sexual abuse in the house during her stay, but said that there had been times when the Sir had time and again stuck his tongue out at her. “I did not know when and how I got to the airport. I did not have the money that they gave with me. I did not have any money with me. My hair was disheveled. I was holding my ID card and passport and ticket. I got a bag from the airline. There were several housemaids like me at the airport,” said Raja Kumari.
Raja Kumari has made a complaint to the Foreign Employment Bureau and to the Police.

* Sri Lankan migrant workers stranded in Kuwait to return home

Sun, Nov 7, 2010, 10:24 am SL Time, ColomboPage News Desk , Sri Lanka .
Nov 07, Colombo : Sri Lankan migrant workers stranded in Kuwait are scheduled to arrive in the country today.
The Foreign Employment Bureau has said that 113 migrant workers who were stranded in Kuwait would return to the country. Eight male workers are among the majority of female migrant workers who were stranded in Kuwait .
The migrant workers had sought refuge at the Sri Lankan Embassy in Kuwait after losing their employment.
The Foreign Employment Bureau had managed to make the necessary arrangements for the migrant workers to return to the country following discussions between the Sri Lankan Embassy in Kuwait and the Kuwaiti authorities.

Sri Lanka housemaid file sent to Interior Ministry, another step towards executioner’s sword

Tue, 2010-11-02 07:28 — editor
Saudi Arabia
Riyadh, 02 November, (
The latest reports emerging from Riyadh reveals that the Riyadh Governorate has already referred to the Saudi Ministry of Interior for its observations and comments, the papers connected with the Saudi Supreme Court verdict confirming the death sentence on Sri Lanka housemaid Rizana Nafeek.
In the meantime it is further learnt that even the search by the Saudi Television Channel 1 to locate for an interview Naif Jiziyan Khalaf Al-Otaibi and his wife - the father and mother of the four month old child alleged to have been murdered by the Sri Lanka House maid on 22nd May 2005, so far has drawn blank.
Sources in Saudi Arabia revealed that the Interior Ministry might send in its observation and the connected papers within three weeks time to the Office of the Minister Cabinet which is presided over by the King for the final decision by the Saudi Monarch on the death sentence.
Already Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapaksa on 25 October has appealed to Saudi Monarch for clemency to the Sri Lankan housemaid. Still development on the clemency appeal is yet to be known.
Also Asian Tribune learnt that several ambassadors from the European Union countries based in Riyadh are also seriously considering appealing for clemency for Sri Lanka housemaid, to the Saudi monarch.
Earlier on September 25th the Supreme Court of Saudi Arabia confirmed the death sentence imposed by the three-judge bench of the Dawadami High Court.
After confirming the death sentence, the connected papers were passed on to the Riyadh Governorate. Asian Tribune now learnt that the papers have been sent to the Interior Ministry by the Riyad Governorate.
The young Rizana Nafeek from Muthur, the eldest daughter of a woodcutter, arrived in Riyadh on May 4, 2005, and quickly began work as a housemaid in the Al-Otaibi household in Dawadami, 390 km west of the capital. Apart from performing the daily household chores, Rizana had also been entrusted with the responsibility of looking after her employer's four-month old infant son, which she was not trained to do.
The incident that led to the death of the four month old infant reported to have occurred around 12:30 p.m. on May 22, 2005, while the accused maid was bottle-feeding the infant.
Rizana claims the baby accidentally choked and that she tried to get help; the parents claim she committed premeditated murder.
She was arrested in May 2005 and a three-member panel of judges from the Dawadami High Court headed by Chief Justice Abdullah Al-Rosaimi found Rizana Nafeek guilty of murdering the four-month-old son of Naif Jiziyan Khalaf Al-Otaibi and sentenced her to death on June 16, 2007.
According to reports Sri Lanka has also earlier appealed Rizana Nafeek case to Saudi Human Rights Commission and still awaiting response from them.
- Asian Tribune -

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Saudi Arabia: Stop Execution of Domestic Worker

Death Penalty Upheld for Sri Lankan, Age 17 at Time of Alleged Killing

( New York , October 26, 2010) – King Abdullah and Interior Minister Prince Naif should halt the execution of Rizana Nafeek, a Sri Lankan domestic worker convicted of killing a child in her care when she was 17, Human Rights Watch said today. Saudi Arabia is one of only three countries worldwide known to have executed individuals in the past two years for crimes committed when they were children.

Rizana Nafeek had been in Saudi Arabia for two weeks in May 2005, working for the ‘Utaibi family, when their 4-month-old baby died in her care. A recruitment agency in Sri Lanka had altered the birth date on her passport to suggest she was 23 so she could migrate for work, but her birth certificate later confirmed she was 17 at the time.

“There is no dispute that the events happened when Nafeek was a child,” said Nisha Varia, senior women’s rights researcher at Human Rights Watch. “The Saudi government should not compound one tragedy with another. It’s time for Saudi Arabia to end its outlier status as one of the very few countries still executing people for crimes they are accused of committing as children.”

An official with the Sri Lankan embassy told Human Rights Watch that diplomats learned last week that Saudi Arabia ’s Supreme Court had upheld Nafeek’s conviction and sentence. A social worker who visited Nafeek in prison on October 24, 2010, told Human Rights Watch that Nafeek is still unaware of the latest Supreme Court decision and is anxious to return home.

Past Human Rights Watch interviews with embassy officials and reporting from Arab News have raised concerns about Nafeek’s access to lawyers and competent translators during her interrogation and trial. Though she was arrested in 2005, she did not have access to legal counsel until after a court in Dawadmi sentenced her to death in 2007. Nafeek has also retracted a confession that she said was made under duress, and says that the baby died in a choking accident while drinking from a bottle.

With the Supreme Court’s latest decision, judicial remedies have been exhausted, unless it can be shown that the courts falsely interpreted Islamic law in their rulings or new evidence comes to light. The king and interior minister must sign execution orders, however, and no one may be executed without such approval. A senior official in the Sri Lankan embassy told Human Rights Watch that it has requested a meeting with the Interior Ministry.

Under the concept of retaliation (qisas) governing murder cases in Saudi Arabia , the parents of the baby also may seek blood money in compensation or grant a pardon instead of opting to ask the state to execute Nafeek.

“The Saudi government should meet with the ‘Utaibi family, the Sri Lankan authorities, and other relevant parties to leave no stone unturned in efforts to overturn this death sentence,” Varia said.

Saudi Arabia is a state party to the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), which expressly prohibits the death penalty or life sentences without parole for offenses committed before the accused turned 18. Nevertheless, Saudi law gives judges wide discretion to treat children as adults in criminal cases, and courts have imposed death sentences on children as young as 13.

Human Rights Watch opposes the death penalty in all circumstances because of its inherent cruelty and its finality. In 2009, Saudi Arabia executed more than 53 persons, including at least three individuals for crimes they allegedly committed as children.

Rizana; the continuing saga of our times

Despite well argued cases by the United Nations, Amnesty International and a slew of other organizations the Saudi law has come in the way to block all the moves to save Rizana Nafeek.
Lawyers hold that chances are slim for President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s letter, calling clemency for Rizana, having a major impact on the outcome of the episode given the nature of the Saudi legal setup. However there’s growing international pressure especially following this week’s sentence.
Needless to say the parents of Rizana, however much impoverished they are, should take the blame for sending their teenage daughter to a country which has the worst record for treatment of domestic workers. The 17 year old certainly would not have volunteered to leave her parents and go overseas as a housemaid. Along with the parents, the job agency which made a forged passport to her, Saudi authorities who got a confession under duress and failed to get her a translator, all have combined to make the life of an innocent girl one big tragedy. The adults certainly have made a child woman to pay a huge price for their follies and insensitivity.
Bottle feeding a baby is an art and as rights groups have pointed out in their petitions, even an adult can accidentally choke a child if she/he is not properly trained in the job. Surely an untrained 17 year old would not have known how to bottle feed the infant and charging her for premeditated murder, putting her behind bars, torturing her to get a confession and finally sentencing her to death – all are results of a fundamental mistake made by the parents.
As a country that has ratified Convention against Torture (CAT), Saudi Arabia would have ideally treated the minor as a torture victim. It did not happen and despite the appeal by Rizana’s lawyers in 2007, two years after the incident, the court delivered the judgment against the girl. And the person who prepared a forged passport for Rizana is yet to be identified or charged.
The growing global sympathy towards the innocent victim’s plight may exert some pressure on Saudi authorities however there’s no guarantee of an amnesty for Rizana since the move to pay ‘blood money’ too has failed.

President writes to Saudi King

-Daily News

President Mahinda Rajapaksa yesterday wrote to King Abdullah bin Abdul Azeez of Saudi Arabia seeking clemency for Sri Lankan maid Rizana Nafeek. Rizana has been sentenced to death for allegedly killing a Saudi infant in 2005.
A three-member panel of judges from the Dawathmy High Court headed by Chief Justice Abdullah Al-Rosaimi sentenced her to death.
The court heard that Nafeek killed the child after she was asked to bottle-feed him by the sponsor's wife. She was then sentenced a death penalty of beheading according to the Saudi Arabian High Court.
Her family has appealed against the verdict and the Saudi Supreme Court has rejected the appeal against the death sentence.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Data system to keep tab on migrant workers

by Ananda Kannangara

The new Internet Networking System (INS) which was launched by the Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment (SLBFE) will ensure the safety of over 1.3 million Sri Lankan migrant workers.

Chairman, SLBFE, Kingsley Ranawaka told the Sunday Observer that the INS will provide information on Sri Lankan workers employed overseas and it will also help to keep a track on each worker.

Accordingly, the system will pave the way for Sri Lankan foreign recruiting agency officials to keep a tab on their foreign counterparts on various issues pertaining to our workers.

It is said that over eight million Sri Lankans who are employed in the Middle Eastern region will immensely benefit from the new INS system.

“This system will also help our employment agencies to directly get in touch with the Sri Lankan embassy in that particular country and obtain information on the situation of our workers,”, Ranawake said.

He said this system, which is to be the first of its kind in the world will also ensure the safety and protection of our workers.

Sri Lankan foreign job seekers could also obtain information on licensed recruitment agencies which are presently operating all over the country through this system.

Rizana's death sentence confirmed

The Supreme Court in Riyadh has endorsed the death sentence given to a Sri Lankan maid who murdered a Saudi infant in 2005, sources from Sri Lanka’s External Affairs Ministry told Arab News.

A three-member panel of judges from the Dawadami High Court headed by Chief Justice Abdullah Al-Rosaimi found Rizana Nafeek guilty of murdering the four-month-old son of Naif Jiziyan Khalaf Al-Otaibi and sentenced her to death on June 16, 2007.

The court heard that Nafeek killed the child after she was asked to bottle-feed him by the sponsor's wife.

The court informed Nafeek that she could file an appeal against her death sentence, which she did.
When the maid's case was referred to the Supreme Court via the Court of Cassation, the Hong Kong-based Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) assigned Saudi law firm Khateb Al-Shammary on a reported SR150,000 contract to defend her.

The Supreme Court referred the case again to the Dawadami court for further clarification on the appeal made by Al-Shammary before issuing its verdict.

Nafeek arrived in Riyadh on May 4, 2005 to work as a housemaid for Al-Otaibi. According to Nafeek’s passport, her date of birth is Feb. 2, 1982, while her birth certificate indicates her actual date of birth as Feb. 4, 1988.

She killed the baby on the afternoon of May 22, 2005. She was arrested by Dawadami police officers the same day, and allegedly confessed to killing the child.

AHRC Executive Director Basil Fernando told Arab News by telephone from Hong Kong Sunday that he would seek the help of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to resolve the case.
He also appealed to Al-Otaibi to consider sparing Nafeek’s life on humanitarian grounds and give her clemency.

"At the moment, we have no comment on the verdict of the Supreme Court," a senior diplomat from the Sri Lankan Embassy in Riyadh said.

In Sri Lanka, the Rupavahini and MTV Sirasa televisions channels also reported the outcome of Nafeek's case.

A social worker who visited Nafeek in jail during the weekend told Arab News that the maid was fine and desperate to see her parents and family.

"Although the prison authorities are aware of the final verdict, they have not told her, nor have I," the social worker said.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

5 distressed Filipino workers in Saudi arrested for filing labor complaints against erring employer

October 17th, 2010
Saudi Arabia
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia -The Kapatiran sa Gitnang Silangan (KGS), an affiliate organization of migrant rights group Migrante-Middle East in Saudi Arabia, today said it received request for assistance from fellow co-workers of the 5 distress OFWs who were detained in Riyadh jail yesterday by their erring employer.
Eric Jocson, Chairperson of KGS-Migrante, said the 5 distress OFWs have been apprehended on Saturday afternoon at their company-provided barracks by local police after their employer has reported that they, 13 of them, staged a “stop of work” action since last week.
The five are now detained at Old Batha Police station in Riyadh.
But prior to this, the 13 distress OFWs working for Keytechnology for Furnishing Est. filed a formal complaints at the Philippine Overseas Labor office (POLO) against their employer.
“The 13 distress OFWs complained of working for more than 8 hours but have not been paid for their overtime, they were not issued protective personal equipment during work, and forcing them to finish their work or else a 2 days salary will be deducted,” Jocson said.
On 15th September, their employer came to their barracks and forced them to sign an agreement insinuating that they are staging a strike, but the 13 distress workers did not sign.
“Yesterday, at about 2:00p.m., 5 of the thirteen distress OFWs have been apprehended by police including Jerry Garingo and 4 other co-workers,” Jocson added.
KGS-Migrante case officers have already alerted the Philippine Embassy-Assistance to the Nationals section to look into this incident.
On his part, Migrante-Middle East regional coordinator John Leonard Monterona, said the 5 distress OFWs should be released from jail, adding that “complaining an erring employer’s labor malpractices do not constitute a violation of the Saudi labor law; it is their employer that should be put behind bars violating their own labor law,” Monterona added.
Monterona said they already talked to the concerned RP embassy officials to represent the 5 distress OFWs with the local police so that they could be released.
“We will not stop our calls to the present Aquino administration to work or ink a bilateral agreement or arrangement on the protection of OFWs with its counterpart Saudi host government and other mid-eastern governments hosting OFWs in the Gulf region,” Monterona ended.
Written by: John Leonard Monterona, Migrante-Middle East regional coordinator

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Filipina maid inherits millions from Singaporean employer

SINGAPORE, July 21, 2010 (AFP) - A devoted Filipina maid inherited six million Singapore dollars (more than four million US) from her late employer after more than 20 years of service, a newspaper report said Wednesday.

"I am the luckiest maid in Singapore, with or without the money," the 47-year-old single woman -- identified only by the pseudonym "Christine" -- told the Straits Times in an interview.

The maid refused to be named in public for fear of possible threats to her life in the impoverished Philippines, where wealthy people have been kidnapped for ransom and some killed by their abductors.

The windfall, including cash and a luxury apartment near the Orchard Road shopping belt, came from the estate of her employer Quek Kai Miew, a medical doctor and philanthropist who died last year at 66.

The maid had also taken care of the doctor's late mother, and was told that she would be a beneficiary of her employer's will when it was drawn up in 2008.

"There were no secrets between us. I was not surprised at all when she told me how much I was going to get," the maid recalled.

"Christine" was devastated when Quek died a year ago, as the two were inseparable, and temporarily moved in with the doctor's nephew for solace.

"It was heartbreaking for me as I saw more years with Doctor Quek than with my own mother. I would break down every time I thought about her. I could not be by myself," she said.

"I was always beside her. Wherever she went, I was with her."

The maid, who is now applying for permanent residency in Singapore, said her newfound wealth had not changed her lifestyle.

"I do not really think much about the money I got. I just live my life as I did before, and not as a rich person," the maid, dressed simply in a blouse and slacks with short-cropped hair, was quoted as saying.

"I am still who I was before. I cannot behave differently because I have money now. Even my Filipino maid friends here still treat me the same."

Nearly 200,000 foreign maids, mostly from the Philippines and Indonesia, work in affluent Singapore, which has a population of five million.
Arab onlinetimes

Monday, October 11, 2010

Lankan employees strike in Jordan called off

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

raj A Bandara

The Foreign Employment Bureau said that the strike started by Sri Lankan employees working at the Classic Fashion Garments factory in Jordan was called off and its Manger's service has been suspended by the Garment factory owners with immediate effect.

The strike started against the manager of the garment factory by the employees a few days ago. They demanded from the employer to remove the manager from the factory. The factory owners had agreed to the demands after negotiations with Sri Lankan embassy officials in Jordan and employees involved in the strike.

Jordanian police fired tear gas on Sri Lankan workers after they threw stones damaging police vehicles and injuring police officers following a dispute at the garment factory. Some employees were injured as a result .

Nearly 2,140 Sri Lankan employees work at Classic Fashion Apparel.


Web-based system to nab errant job agents

Sunday Observer - October 10, 2010

The Sri Lankan Bureau of Foreign Employment (SLBFE) will launch a web-based system to nab errant job agents and minimise malpractices in the overseas employment sector, said Chairman, SLBFE, Kingsley Ranawaka.

He said the data system will be launched next month and it will help reduce malpractices and ill treatment of overseas workers.

The web system will include information on job order approvals, migrant worker agreements, local and foreign agents and foreign missions.

Ranawaka said the program will help those planning to go overseas to obtain correct information on job opportunities, salaries, working conditions and labour laws in various countries.

The web system will help those seeking jobs overseas to avoid bogus job agents and seek authentic sources to get to their destination.

Ranawaka said departure approval will not be given to job seekers if agents do not provide information on job opportunities and salaries.

Bogus job agents swindle large amounts of money from people promising lucrative jobs overseas. Many have been taken for a ride by errant job agents due to lack of information.

"The SLBFE trains and educates those seeking foreign employment but many do not make use of the facilities. Job seekers are taking a huge risk by going through illegal agencies", Ranawaka said.

"The SLBFE will raid bogus agencies immediately if it receives information of such places. The Bureau encourages people to provide information of illegal agencies", he said.

The SLBFE Act was amended last year and the minimum fine for a bogus agent was increased from Rs. 20,000 to Rs. 100,000 with four years imprisonment.

SLFBE is responsible for overall management, operations and regulating the foreign employment business in the country.Sri Lankans working overseas are the largest foreign exchange sector of the economy.

The country's annual foreign remittance is around US$ 3 billion which is similar to export earnings from garments.

Ranawaka said job opportunities in Europe are gradually increasing and already agents have sent people to the region.

"Employment for Korea which was drastically low due to the global financial crisis has rapidly regained since last April and Korean training is done at an increased level", he said.

SLBFE declared that pre-departure training which was mandatory for housemaids has now been made mandatory for male employees to the Middle East .

SLBFE opened its seventh provincial office in the Sabaragamuwa province at the Divisional Secretariat, Ratnapura recently.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

More jobs in Qatar

Tue, 5 October, 2010 20:13:- Daily Mirror -

DOHA : Qatar is expected to attract more Sri Lankan job-seekers as the National Recruitment Committee in Saudi Arabia has said that it will refrain from signing further employment contracts with workers from the island nation. Recruitment agencies here expect many will turn to Doha , due to its huge job potential.

“We believe job-seekers might turn to Doha if the doors to Saudi Arabia are closed. There are many jobs available here,” said a Sri Lankan recruitment agency in Doha . They also claim to have no problems in recruiting procedures.

The National Recruitment Committee in Saudi Arabia had urged all private recruitment offices in the country to refrain from signing further contracts for the employment of Sri Lankans, reports said.

The Sri Lankan Embassy in Doha said it has not received any information on the issue. “No, we are not informed about it” said
A Tharmakulasingham, Counsellor, Sri Lankan Embassy in Doha .

Standard recruitment procedures are followed by the embassy as per memorandum of understanding signed between Qatar and Sri Lanka in 2008. “It was implemented in August this year and followed successfully,” Tharmakulasingham further said.

However, the recent developments pertaining to the rights of workers in Saudi Arabia have worried Sri Lankan residents in Doha too. A family planning to move from Doha to Riyadh by the end of this year said: “There are conflicting reports about Sri Lankan employment in Saudi, we have to really confirm it with the officials there as we cannot take a risk.”

“If a ban is implemented, I hope it will not effect the present workers there, my brother is employed in Jeddah through a recruitment agency,” said another Sri Lankan resident. The Peninsula

Source: thepeninsulaqatar

Saving the migrant worker

October 4, 2010 @ 11:22 pm

SRI LANKA’S migrant workers seem to be caught between a rock and hard place following reports that the Saudi government has banned the recruitment of housemaids. Even though the Sri Lankan government has denied any such situation, the actual fallout is yet to be determined.

According to the Saudi Gazette the National Recruitment Committee in Saudi Arabia has called upon all private recruitment offices in the Kingdom to sign no further contracts for the employment of Sri Lankan nationals from abroad.
The “extremely urgent” call followed disputes between the Sri Lankan Labour Union (ALFIA) and the Sri Lankan Labour Office, which could lead to delays in the arrival of workers to the Kingdom. It is also a response to the Sri Lankan media’s negative portrayal of the memorandum of understanding (MoU) between the National Recruitment Committee and ALFIA which was due to come into effect on 10 September.
The MoU signed with ALFIA set recruitment charges at a maximum of SR5, 500 for housemaids according to a Saudi newspaper. The article further went on to say that the Sri Lankan Ministry of Labour reportedly backtracked on the pretext that the MoU will deprive the Lankan economy of an additional income of over $50 million.
Recruitment offices in the Eastern Province had said on Sunday that most of them had already put the suspension into effect, and that with the situation currently “unclear” it would remain in force.
Most offices are now turning to Indonesia as a viable alternative,” said one office representative. Indonesia remains committed to the MoU it signed and which came into effect early Ramadan. The MoU with Indonesia sets recruitment costs at SR6, 000, with visa fees on top.
This would result in a serious concern for the government that depends on foreign remittances to a large extent as a source of foreign exchange. Moreover it would have serious repercussions for thousands of people who depend on migrant workers’ hard earned salaries for survival.
The disturbing incident of a housemaid being injected with nails that gained immense popularity is just another indication of the deprivations that migrant workers undergo in these countries. In a sense the government has an obligation to stand up for its citizens and ensure that they are treated properly. Unfortunately it must also be done without making the country lose opportunities, at least till alternatives can be found for the people.
It cannot be denied that Sri Lanka is still a poor country and that it needs the assistance of migrant workers in many capacities. The government moves to send trained labour abroad will also take time to materialise, but even then, brain drain should not be encouraged as Sri Lanka is vehemently focused on development.
So then where is the solution? Perhaps it is in striking a balance between these two extremes — on the one hand safeguarding migrant workers and on the other, the opportunities they have, by maintaining a closer relationship with the Saudi government and the relevant departments in that country so that not only do people have the chance to go to work abroad but also have the capacity to protect themselves.
Migrant workers are people too, and they should be given the chance to have basic rights and space to be in a conducive environment. It is in the best interests of both governments to ensure this. Generating a culture of trust and humanity is the hardest of all and rarely comes into the purview of many of these transactions that are done more with human lives than just money.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Wage talks delay recruitment from Sri Lanka


Published: Oct 1, 2010 00:01 Updated: Oct 1, 2010 00:48

JEDDAH: Saudi sponsors seeking to recruit domestic help from Sri Lanka say they have suffered delays of nine months to a year, despite completing the application process and paying the fees.

“In March, I paid the fees and was told that according to the new regulations, I should only have to wait for 190 days or just over six months until the maid arrives. Instead, I am still waiting,” said Saad K., a retired government employee.

He has visited and called the recruitment office many times but was told that the delay was due to a problem in Sri Lanka.

Another Saudi who was visiting a recruitment agency told Arab News that he had been waiting for 10 months and had been given the runaround whenever he called for information.

“Several times I have called the office to speak to the manager and they always say he is out and will return my call, which never happens,” said Khaled Al- Seraj, adding that this is why he had decided to make a personal visit to the office.

The manager of employment agency Badeel Recruitment in Jeddah told Arab News the delays were due to salary negotiations currently under way between Sri Lanka and Saudi Arabia.

“We have information that Sri Lanka is requesting and working on establishing new contracts raising the salaries of its domestic workers from the current minimum wage of SR650 to SR800,” said the manager, Sameer.

He added that until these negotiations are completed, he does not see any end to the current delays.

“The talks must be completed and an agreement arrived at before we can expect any applications to be processed abroad in Sri Lanka,” he said.

Arab News contacted Nimal Ranawaka, labor consul at the Sri Lankan Embassy in Riyadh, for his reaction. However, he said he considered the matter confidential. Other Sri Lankan diplomats were not available for comment.

According to figures obtained earlier this month from Sri Lanka’s Central Bank, remittances from Sri Lankan nationals working in Saudi Arabia and other Middle East countries are expected to top SR14.25 billion ($3.8 billion) by the end of this year.

Maids in ME unprotected from abuse

Reforms insufficient: HRW
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates, April 29, (AP): Reforms undertaken by governments in the Middle East to protect domestic workers from abuse are insufficient to shield women working as house maids from abuse and violence, Human Rights Watch said Thursday.
Millions of mostly Asian women who work in countries like Saudi Arabia, Lebanon and the United Arab Emirates remain at risk of human trafficking, forced labor, confinement and sexual violence, the New York-based group said.
Although several governments have made improvements for migrant domestic workers in the past five years, reform has been slow and incremental, Nisha Varia, the group’s senior researcher of women’s rights told The Associated Press.
“There has been a big change in the sense that these countries are recognizing there is a problem,” Varia said in a phone interview. “But while many governments are introducing reforms, most have yet to implement them.”
The 26-page report released Thursday documents progress in extending protections to mostly Asian women working as house maids in Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Jordan, Bahrain, Kuwait and the Emirates.
Women working in private homes often work 20-hour days, face forced confinement and are sometimes physically and sexually abused, the report said.
Maids in ME

Their passports are confiscated upon arrival, leaving employers in full control of their house maids’ lives under what is known as a “sponsorship system.”
The custom remains the biggest factor contributing to abuse, leaving women trapped in abusive situations since they are not allowed to legally change an employer, HRW said.
The group also urged that it’s essential that domestic workers’ rights — now governed by immigration law in most Mideast countries — are included in the labor law, assuring them of basic rights such as setting their work hours, regulating the quality of food and housing they get and guaranteeing them a day off a week.
“Governments will have to think creatively how to reach out to women working in private homes,” Varia said. “It is a unique working environment.”
While Human Rights Watch praised Jordan for including domestic work in the country’s labor law, it said that “enforcement remains a big concern.”
Most migrant workers in the Middle East — 1,5 million, according to HRW’s assessment — are employed in Saudi Arabia. About 200,000 migrants work in Lebanon and 660,000 in Kuwait.
Domestic work in foreign countries is an important source of employment for women in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, Nepal, India, and Ethiopia. Their earnings abroad amount to much of the billions of dollars of remittances sent home each year.

Indonesia wants guarantee for maids safety from 3 countries Kuwait keen on safeguarding rights of expat workers

KUWAIT CITY, Sept 25: Indonesian Minister of Labor Muhaimin Iskandar recently instructed Indonesians planning to work as maids in Malaysia, Kuwait and Jordan to suspend the processing of their papers until the governments of these countries guarantee their safety, reports Al-Seyassah daily.
Iskandar issued the decision at a time when the domestic labor file is still pending at the Kuwaiti Parliament, while the government has yet to announce its stand on the step taken by its Indonesian counterpart.

Meanwhile, sources said the official spokesperson of the Indonesian Embassy in Kuwait is expected to hold a press conference soon to clarify the issue, especially since the Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has ordered its mission to stop sending Indonesian maids to Kuwait.

According to the latest statistical report, there are about 75,000 Indonesian workers in Kuwait.
Sources confirmed the concerned officials at the Ministry of Interior have been holding a series of meetings with the embassies of countries sending household workers to Kuwait to highlight the steps taken by the Kuwaiti authorities to protect their rights.

Meanwhile, MP Mubarak Al-Waalan asked the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor to explain why the Indonesian government stopped sending its citizens to Kuwait to work as housemaids and added that “the issue is a blot on Kuwait’s image, especially since only Kuwait out of all Gulf countries has been singled out,” reports Al-Seyassah daily.

Sources say Al-Waalan called the Indonesian government’s concerns unfounded as Kuwait is known for upholding Islamic and humanitarian values and said that even if there were transgressions, they are individual cases and therefore, it is not right to hold the whole country responsible.
The lawmaker blamed the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor for the problems related to domestic servants and added that if nothing positive is done to address the situation and redeem the good image of the country, a time will come when no nation will allow its citizens to work in Kuwait and then Kuwaitis would bear the full brunt of the matter.

In a related development, the Kuwaiti Ambassador to Indonesia re-affirmed the State of Kuwait keenness on safeguarding rights of the foreign workers. In a statement to KUNA, reacting to fresh remarks by the Indonesian Minister of Manpower and Transmigration Muhaimin Iskandar affirming a government ban on Indonesia female workers from travelling to Kuwait, Nasser Bareh Al-Enezi said this measure had been in effect since September last year.

The statement by the Indonesian minister, was intended to assert the keenness on protecting the Indonesians who serve abroad, the Kuwaiti ambassador said, adding that he contacted Iskandar, who in turn indicated that a memorandum of understanding regulating status of the Indonesian workers in Kuwait has not been finalized yet.

Minister Iskandar expressed admiration at Kuwait’s efforts for tackling this file and lifting the ban, Al-Enezi said.

The Kuwaiti diplomat affirmed keenness of the State of Kuwait on safeguarding the rights of all workers residing and working in the country, as well maintaining their safety, securing an honorable living, facilitating residency and movement, in line with the respect for human rights. The diplomat also expressed hope that the two sides would work out an accord for regulating status of the Indonesian workers.

‘Labour’ seeks MoI views on UN rights panel suggestions on maids Proposal to strip nationality of ‘divorced’ women’s kids

KUWAIT CITY, July 18: The Ministry of Social Affairs and Labour has asked the Ministry of Interior to give its views on the recommendations issued by the UN Human Rights Committee, obliging Kuwait to abide by the international conventions to protect its domestic workers, and include them in the private sector labour law Number 6/2010, reports Al-Qabas daily.
In a letter to the Ministry of Interior (MoI), Ministry of Social Affairs and Labour stated the MoI works on protecting the expatriate personnel, while it specializes in bringing in the domestic workers through many regulatory systems. However, domestic workers were excluded from the private sector labour law, and it exposed Kuwait to criticism by the international human rights committee and other international organizations.

The Ministry of Social Affairs and Labour stressed that Kuwait actively participated in the meetings of the UN Human Rights Committee, which led to the issuance of those recommendations and compelled Kuwait to take them into consideration without delay.
In the meantime, the ministry requires the viewpoints of MoI, with regards to providing complete protection for this segment of the work force, in addition to its major expectations in the residency law and related issues. It has also called for an immediate response to the proposal, to pave the way for a single report to be filed to clarify Kuwait’s stance in that regard.
Meanwhile, the General Administration for Citizenship and Passports Affairs is studying a proposal to withdraw the Kuwaiti nationality from children of divorced women breaching the law by going back to their non-Kuwaiti husbands, reported Al Watan daily.

The study is being supervised by the General Manager of Public Administration for Nationality and Passports, Major General Sheikh Faisal Al Nawaf and legal experts. The move came after the officials found out that many Kuwaiti women who were legally divorced with their Arab and GCC-national husbands in the interests of their children have secretly returned to their husbands through marriage contracts signed in neighbouring countries, while others are married in secret.
The proposal, if completed, will be submitted to the Minister of Interior, which will then be presented to the National Assembly for approval, to pave the way for the citizenship to be stripped from those children.
Meanwhile, a reliable source confirmed the current scrutiny of the list of names expected to be naturalized has revealed the name of an Arab maid who used to work in the 60s and 70s for a Kuwaiti family and attained the nationality, since she was included in the 1965 census.
The source noted the maid was naturalized when the entire family was being naturalized, and many others were also naturalized without using their proper names, whereas others carried their relatives’ names. He also disclosed that some of them were restricted securitywise, and they were disqualified from obtaining the nationality.
In other developments, officers at the Salmi exit apprehended two Bedoun people who tried to leave the country with Saudi Arabian passports which were not their own.
They were reportedly riding in a vehicle with 19 other Saudi Arabian nationals when the officer in charge uncovered their passports were owned by other people, and he informed the assistant manager of the Salmi border exit immediately.

Filipina maids leave for home after sour sojourn Kuwait bears bill in goodwill gesture

KUWAIT CITY, Sept 5: A group, comprising 97 Filipina household workers who have spent months of waiting while being sheltered at the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) FWRC or Filipino Workers Resource Center at the Philippine Embassy in Jabriya were finally repatriated early Sunday back to their home country.
Philippine Ambassador to Kuwait, HE Shulan O Primavera went to the POLO premises around 2:30 a.m. Sunday and met with the deportees prior to their departure to the airport. In words of advice, he told the group that their experience should serve as a lesson for them to be circumspect in their search for overseas jobs in the future.
He also lauded the POLO headed by Labor Attache Atty Vivo Vidal and Asst Labatt Ofelia C. Hudson and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration’s Welfare Officer Yolanda Penaranda and members of their staff for their efforts in putting the whole process together, as well as the APO or Alpha Phi Omega — Kuwait Chapter members who assisted in the early dawn operation loading the deportees’ luggage and personal belongings on a lorry, likewise Western Union for providing the workers’ shirts.
The deportees who were sent home are among two hundred or more Filipina household workers who ran away from their employers for a variety of reasons, ranging from: maltreatment, non-payment of salaries, physical and sexual abuse, overworked, no rest days, etc, and sought shelter at the Philippine Embassy.

While most of the run-away cases have been resolved through conciliation arranged by POLO officials between maids and their employers, others needed to be resolved in the courts, thus the delay in repatriating those who want to be sent home, according to an official.
According to an embassy press release explaining the deportation process, runaways or abscondees in Kuwait who run to the Filipino Workers Resources Center (FWRC) shelter at the Philippine Embassy must be surrendered to the local police to facilitate their deportation. The local police would then summon the employer who would be required to surrender the worker’s passport, cancel the worker’s visa and procure and submit a plane ticket for the worker.
Under the said procedure, the waiting period before detained runaways are deported takes three or more months, while in the case of those whose employers or sponsors refuse to cooperate, it would take several months to more than one year before they can be sent home.
In the case of the group of 97, the normal requirements were waived in representations made by the Philippine Labor Office with Kuwait Immigration and, as an added bonus, the Kuwait government agreed to foot the repatriation bill as a humanitarian gesture taking into consideration the workers’ plights, many of whom have been staying at the FWRC shelter between three to eight months with no means of income.

The said arrangement was reportedly made possible with the cooperation of the Office of the Undersecretary of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor Mohammad Al Khandary and the Office of Gen Abdullah Al Ali of the Department of Immigration at Kuwait’s Interior Ministry.
“I thank God and those who made our return home possible, I would finally be with my family and loved ones whom I dearly missed all this time” says one deportee who did not give her name.
According to Atty Vidal, similar arrangements are being made with Kuwait Immigration for another batch, probably about the same number as these group, that could be repatriated possibly within this month.
The 97 OFWs are expected to arrive in Manila early Monday morning onboard Gulf Air flight GF-516 and will be met by representatives from the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) who will arrange the workers’ transportation to their respective hometowns after undergoing debriefing and counseling.
By: Boie Conrad Dublin

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Malaysian nod for Lankan domestic aids

The Malaysian Human Resource Ministry has introduced restrictions on employing foreign maids as domestic servants. Human Resources Minister Dr S Subramaniam said
Daily News

Malaysia can employ domestic servants from only seven countries inclusive of Sri Lanka .

Other countries are Laos , Myanmar , Cambodia , Thailand , India , and Philippines .

“Although maids from the Philippines have been coming here for a long time, their numbers have dwindled as they are demanding higher salaries and are opting to go elsewhere,” he added.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Kuwait to scrap sponsor system for workers

First Published 2010-09-26

Kuwait to become second Gulf country to abolish much-criticised system sponsor after Bahrain.

KUWAIT CITY - Kuwait will scrap the much-criticised sponsor system for foreign labour in February, the Al-Rai newspaper reported Sunday, becoming only the second Gulf country to abolish a practice that has been likened to slavery.
The paper quoted Minister of Social Affairs and Labour Mohammed al-Afasi as saying that the system, locally known as "kafeel," will be scrapped when a public authority for the recruitment of foreign workers is established in February.
"This will be our gift to foreign workers on the anniversary of Kuwait's liberation," the minister said.
Described by human rights bodies as akin to slavery, the sponsor system requires that all foreign workers must be sponsored by Kuwaiti employers, thus keeping them at the mercy of their bosses.
Kuwait will become the second Gulf country to abolish the system after Bahrain, which decided in 2009 to end its longstanding requirement for all foreign workers to be sponsored by a citizen.
Bahrain likened the sponsorship system to modern-day slavery. The practice also has been slammed by international rights groups.
Gulf countries employ armies of foreign workers to run their oil-fueled economies, doing everything from menial jobs to running companies.
Kuwait, home to around 2.3 million expatriates, has in the past few years eased the sponsor system, allowing workers to find a new job without the prior approval of their sponsors after three years of service.
In December, Kuwait's parliament passed a new labour law that grants better rights and conditions, replacing a 45-year-old law that was criticised as being favourable to employers at the expense of workers.
The legislation provides better annual leave, end of service indemnities and holidays.
It also sets tougher penalties, including jail terms, for businessmen who trade in visas or who recruit expatriate workers and then fail to provide them with jobs, or who fail to pay salaries regularly.
The bill also requires the government to introduce a minimum wage for certain jobs, especially in the lower-paid categories.

Sri Lankan housemaid's body to be flown home next week

Sun, Sep 26, 2010, 12:04 am SL Time, ColomboPage News Desk , Sri Lanka .

Sept 25, Colombo: Sri Lanka Foreign Employment Bureau has taken action to bring the body of a Sri Lankan housemaid in Qatar who committed suicide by burning herself after pouring petrol on her body.

The woman was believed to be heartbroken due to a broken relationship. She has reportedly attempted to commit suicide in previous occasions as well.

The 21-year-old woman was a resident of Matale in the Central Province .

Her body is expected to be flown to Sri Lanka next week.

Overstaying Sri Lankans in Saudi Arabia to get amnesty

Wed, Sep 22, 2010, 07:27 pm SL Time, ColomboPage News Desk, Sri Lanka .

Sept 22, Colombo: The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has granted an amnesty period of six months for the foreigners including Sri Lankans overstaying or illegally staying in the country to leave without fine or other punishment.

Sri Lanka Foreign Employment Bureau says that this amnesty will be effective from September 25, 2010 to March 25, 2011.

The Saudi Arabian government has warned the overstaying foreign nationals that they will face punishments and deportation if they are nabbed illegally staying in that country after this amnesty period.

Those who wish to have the amnesty must produce themselves before the closest immigration office, Saudi Arabian government has announced.

Sri Lanka Foreign Employment Bureau asks Sri Lankan nationals who have lost passports to report to Sri Lankan missions in Jeddah and Riyadh to obtain their passports.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Lankan to face firing squad

A 23-year-old Sri Lankan man who stabbed his lover’s husband to death in a jealous rage is to face a firing squad in Dubai. Rowan Kumar, was convicted in April by the Dubai Criminal Court of First Instance and sentenced to life imprisonment.

When the Daily Mirror inquired from the Consular Division of the Ministry of External affairs, a source explained that no official communication on the matter had been received as yet.

In June, the Dubai Court of Appeals accepted the public prosecutors’ case for the death sentence on the ground that the murder was premeditated. Dubai’s highest court upheld the execution order.

JP, a Sri Lankan businessman and Kumar’s colleague, was stabbed to death in June 2009. His wife at first told police that an African man had killed her husband during a mugging, but witnesses revealed that she and Kumar were having an affair.

The wife then confessed to her involvement with Kumar, and said he had killed her husband.

Kumar denied murder but admitted that he fought JP in an alley. The Court of First Instance found him guilty but sentenced him to life in prison because premeditation could not be established.

At the appeals court, prosecutors proved that Kumar had planned to kill JP, and had waited for him with a knife in a narrow and poorly lit alley in Jafiliya. He saw JP walking hand-in-hand with his wife and stabbed him in the back.

JP then chased Kumar and fought with him, but the killer stabbed him again in the chest and neck before escaping.

He was eventually arrested at his mother’s home in The Springs. Police said she had bought a plane ticket for her son to flee the country and she was charged with aiding and abetting the escape of a criminal, but the charges were dropped.

Kumar will now be placed on death row at the Dubai Central Prison awaiting the Attorney General’s presentation of the case file to the Ruler’s Office to confirm an execution date.

The Chief Justice of the Criminal Courts, Judge Ahmed Ibrahim Saif, said convicts on death row had visitation rights until the day of execution.

Kumar’s family can visit on the day of execution, but may not attend the execution itself.

The victim’s family is allowed to do so with permission from the attorney general’s office.

The last execution in Dubai was in 2002, of a Yemeni man convicted of kidnapping and murder, according to public

Source: The National

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Interview with Yotam Politser, Human Rights Activist, on Challenges and Opportunities for Nepali Migrants in Israel

September 14th

Israel Women Workers Working conditions
Migrant Rights caught up with Israeli human rights activist Yotam Politser in Kathmandu to learn more about the challenges that Nepali migrants face in Israel. Israel is an increasingly popular country among Nepali migrants seeking labour opportunities overseas, and is currently home to approximately 12,000 Nepalis, who mainly work in care-giving and agriculture.
While Israel has a reputation for paying better wages and having a more established concept of human rights norms for workers than most other Middle Eastern countries, migrant workers still face problems such as corrupt recruitment agents and a lack of information about the kind of support available to them in-country.
Yotam is currently based in Kathmandu and works for Tevel b’Tzedek (The Earth in Justice). He has wide experience working with Nepali migrant workers, both pre-departure and on their return to Nepal.
M-R: What expectations do Nepalis have when they start the process of migrating to Israel? Do they have an understanding of what to expect when they go?
Yotam Politser: Israel is one of the most sought-after destinations among Nepali migrant workers because the wages are higher than other Middle Eastern countries, and it is generally safer. Nepalis generally go to Israel to work in agriculture or as caregivers. The average monthly wage is $700-900 for a Nepali caregiver and those working in agriculture can earn up to $1300 if they put in a lot of overtime. They’ve often heard from friends and relatives that it is Israel is very developed and understand that there is some concept of human rights there. However, they don’t necessarily know who they would go to if they had a problem in Israel.
M-R: What kind of problems do Nepali migrant workers face in Israel?
YP: The biggest problem is fees paid to recruitment brokers. Under Israeli law, manpower companies can charge migrant workers up to 3000 Shekels (US$800) for the recruiting process and job placement. What actually happens is that migrants are being charged by brokers in both Nepal and Israel, which means that they run up huge debts.
The problem with manpower companies is that they want to try to get as many workers into the country as possible, and they are flooding the market with unskilled labour. If a migrant worker is abused by their employer and wants to leave, it is very difficult to switch to another job because the supply of migrant workers in the market is so much greater than demand.
Nepali care-workers end up in a very difficult position if their employer dies, which unfortunately happens a lot because most of them are tasked with looking after the elderly. If this happens, they have two months to find another job under Israeli law. If they haven’t found a job in this time, they become illegal. If this happens, a lot of workers stay on in the country anyway and find jobs in sectors which they are not permitted to work in – for example, taking illegal jobs as cooks, cleaners, waiters and security guards. Being out of the formal employment sector means that they are more vulnerable to human rights abuses, such as being underpaid.
M-R: What steps can be taken to help Nepalis to have a safer experience of migration to Israel?
YP: Compared to other countries in the region, there is quite a lot of help available to migrant workers in Israel. The problem is that most migrant workers don’t know who to contact if they are in trouble – for example, if there is an employment dispute or they have a health problem. Doctors Without Borders provides free medical care to migrant workers but a lot of them just don’t know about this service. So the first thing to do is to make workers aware of their rights and tell them where they can go to for help. For most Nepali migrants, their only source of information about Israel is the manpower company which gave them the work placement, but the manpower companies have no interest in making Nepali workers aware of their rights.
M-R: Israel has periodically imposed bans on Nepali migrants workers (for example, in 2009). Do you think that bans on certain nationalities are a good way to manage migration?
YP: Israel banned Nepalis from working as caregivers in 2009 because every survey that bad been carried out on labour showed that there were more workers than needed in the sector. I think if the market is flooded, then it is reasonable to impose a ban. But it would be better for Israel to develop a system of recruiting workers from overseas in a way that is more sensitive to market conditions instead of imposing bans. That way we won’t end up with oversupply in certain sectors, which puts the workers themselves in a vulnerable position. One idea would be to nationalise the recruitment of foreign labour rather than leaving it to the manpower companies, who are driven by their own financial gain.
M-R: So are there any models that other countries have used for managing migration that you think that Israel or Nepal could learn from?
YP: I think that the arrangement that Nepal and Korea have is really great. The Korean government manages all recruitment from developing countries itself, and no private manpower agents are involved in the process. All prospective workers have to go through a standardised test in the Embassy in Kathmandu to asses their skills, and if they pass, they are entered into a computerised database.
Korean employers looking to recruit Nepali workers go directly to the Korean Embassy in Kathmandu. There is an extra charge for this service – $200 per worker – but this goes towards the provision of basic social services for migrant workers. In Korea, migrants have access to social workers, so they have somewhere to go to for support.
Korea was very firm with Nepal about the recruitment of Nepali nationals; the message basically was ‘we will do this our way, our we won’t employ Nepalis in our country’. Their system does seem to be working better than the private sector approach.
I think that manpower companies on both the Israeli and the Nepali side have been irresponsible, for example by charging workers too much, or bringing more workers into the market than needed. If recruitment were to be nationalised it could cut out a lot of problems.
M-R: For most Nepalis who go to Israel (and other Middle Eastern countries), migration is only temporary. Do returning workers face challenges when they come back to their home communities after a stint working abroad?
YP: There are a lot of challenges for returning migrant workers, especially married women women. One thing that we’ve seen a lot is women returning home after a couple of years working abroad to find that their husband has remarried, and that she is effectively cast out of the family despite the fact that they have been supported by her remittances. A lot of women face pressure from their families to go back to Israel or another country when they return to Nepal so that they can continue to send money. Families become very dependent on this new source of income, and want to make big purchases such as land or a car. It is very difficult for the women, who may have only seen their children once during a five-year period of working abroad.
In Israel, there is a lot more gender equality and migrant women experience freedoms that they would never have had in Nepali society. Coming back to a patriarchal society after working overseas can be very tough for a returning migrant woman. Jobs in Nepal are nowhere near as well-paid as those in Israel, which can be frustrating for returnees.
M-R: What steps could be taken to help returning migrants re-integrate?
YP: There should be counselling available to returning workers both in Israel, before they leave, and in Nepal. Workers are in need of advice about what to do when they return home, and how best to use the money that they have saved. There is also a need for family counselling to help returnees reintegrate with their families after a long stint abroad.
Nepalis often come back from Israel with a lot of new skills, but there is no channel for them to put these skills to use in their home countries For example, many Nepalis work in agriculture in Israel, and have learned a lot about modern farming methods. I know a lot of individuals who have worked as farm labourers in Israel and learned a lot, but don’t have an outlet for their new knowledge. There needs to be more attention given to this area because this could really be beneficial for Nepal, given that most migrant workers come from communities which are dependent on agriculture.

Labor Office gets several complaints of rules violations


By Zain Anbar
JEDDAH – The Labor Office received a number of complaints last week including two cases of mass terminations, one of which involved female workers at a factory, Qussay Filali, Director of the Labor Office in Jeddah, said.
In the termination cases, the parties will be summoned for questioning, an investigation will be conducted and measures will be taken against the companies if their actions violated regulations, Filali said.
He added that the Labor Office also received three complaints about delays in payment of salaries, which is a clear violation of the law and punishable by a fine.
Al-Filali said the Labor Office has also received enquiries from non-Muslim employees asking about daily working hours during Ramadan. He said he answered that workers are required to work six hours per day during the holy month. – Okaz/SG

Monday, September 13, 2010

Maids in UAE better off than other Gulf states - Lankan Envoy


Number of complaints from Lankan maids has fallen:

Maids in the UAE are treated better than anywhere else in the Gulf, Sri Lanka's Consul-General in Dubai Wasantha Senanayake said.

He said the number of complaints they have received from its nationals working as maids in the country has drastically reduced. "I am not saying that there are no complaints what so ever. But it is negligible.

"The way you treat your maid, or whoever it could be for that matter, is a reflection of 'the cultural background' and we have had very good examples here in the UAE," he said.

"People here are exposed to different cultures," he said. Gulf countries continue to attract the largest number of Sri Lankan maids.

"Saudi continues to lead the list in the Gulf, followed by Kuwait and the UAE. The numbers are also a reflection of the demand," he added.

Meanwhile, commenting on the on arrival visa scheme, Senanayake said: "It was a good decision to withdraw the order that cancelled the on-arrival visa scheme. It would have had a severe impact on the tourism in the country."

"The number of tourists from the region has increased significantly in 2010. It has been going up steadily ever since the internal conflict was resolved. The numbers in 2009 increased by 36 percent compared to 2008. We registered a 50 percent growth in January this year compared to the previous year. The trend has continued so far," he added. Investment from the Gulf to Sri Lanka has also increased. "We organised one program for investors in the UAE several months ago.

The consulate will organize a second meeting with possible joint venture partners in the coming months. There will be a field trip as well. Emirates 24/7

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Sri Lanka: Anger Rises Over Torture Case, But Solution Unclear

• by Feizal Samath (colombo)

The ordeal of a Sri Lankan domestic worker whose Saudi Arabian employer allegedly drove nails and metal wires into her body has sent alarm bells ringing among government officials and activists, but how such abuses can be stopped remain far from clear.
'This is a bit of a problem. Maybe we need to look at some new protective measures,' said Mangala Randeniya, deputy general manager at the state-owned Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment (SLBFE), which looks after the overseas deployment of this South Asian island nation’s workers.
The widely reported case of 50-year-old L P D Ariyawathi, who returned to Sri Lanka on Aug. 21 with 20 nails and metal wires in her body, has triggered protests outside the Saudi Arabian embassy here.
After President Mahinda Rajapaksa ordered a full investigation into the Ariyawathi case, SLBFE officials flew to Riyadh on Aug. 30 to persuade Saudi authorities to take action against the employer and discuss issues facing migrant workers.
This latest case may be the most bizarre thus far, but it is not the first and will not be last, given that this South Asian island nation has 1.5 million overseas workers, of whom 1.2 million work in Saudi Arabia. Majority of them are women working in private homes as domestic workers.
But Lakshan Dias, a lawyer who is chairman of the Colombo- based South Asian Network for Refugees, IDPs and Migrant Workers, says Ariyawathi’s plight provides a opportunity for the Sri Lankan government to step up pressure on labour- receiving countries to fulfill international conventions against torture and others respecting the rights of migrant workers.
Saudi Arabia has signed the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention against Torture but with some reservations, he says.
'Putting pressure on governments won’t necessarily mean we will lose markets,' he said, arguing that recently the SLBFE banned the deployment of Sri Lankan domestic workers in Jordan because agents there were paying less than the prescribed minimum wage of 200 U.S. dollars per month.
But while Sri Lanka has bilateral agreements on migrant labour with Kuwait and Jordan, it does not have one with Saudi Arabia.
Likewise, Sri Lanka, like many other labour-exporting countries, has signed the 1990 International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Their Families. But many labour-receiving nations, like Saudi Arabia, have not signed it.
With little certainty over how justice can be obtained in Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka’s bureau of foreign employment has taken the responsibility of compensating Ariyawathi with a house and cash. It says it plans to fly her to Saudi Arabia in case her presence is required for an investigation there.
Nimalka Fernando, a women’s rights activist and spokeswoman for the Colombo-based Women’s Alliance for Peace and Democracy, says the government drags its feet over the protection of domestic workers, which the country has been exporting for three decades.
'Sri Lankan domestic workers are getting harassed almost daily in some part of the world but our officials are slow in responding,' she said. 'It was horrifying that the Foreign Minister G L Peiris met the Saudi ambassador in Colombo to register a complaint in the Ariyawathi case only on Tuesday (Aug. 31), almost 10 days after the victim returned and the storywas splashed all over the newspapers.'
She said rights groups plan to file a complaint with the U.N. Expert Group on Migrant Workers in Geneva on the torture of Ariyawathi. 'We are also canvassing for all labour- receiving countries where Sri Lankans work to ratify the ILO Convention Against Torture and enforce it,' she added.
But Dias says that what happens to efforts to seek legal address in Saudi Arabia, where this is first case of abuse of this kind for Sri Lanka, is up in the air. If the courts move and issue a ruling in favour of the migrant worker, it could be precedent case for the future.
He adds that judicial intervention — getting a ruling and policy from the courts — might be more effective than working through existing laws.
For instance, Dias has filed a fundamental rights petition in Sri Lanka’s Supreme Court on behalf of a Sri Lankan worker who was duped into signing a second contract with a job agent, one where the job designation was changed from the original contract and the salary reduced. This worker returned to Sri Lanka a few months after arriving in Qatar, where he had been forced to work as a labourer although he was a skilled plumber, and then fell ill.
The victim is demanding not only compensation but a ruling from the court that the government should have a compensation formula for all workers in distress.
Ariyawathi’s case has drawn as much attention as much as what happened to Rizana Nafeek, the underage domestic worker who was trafficked into Saudi Arabia and sentenced to death on Jun. 16, 2007 for the alleged murder of an infant in her care. In jail since May 2005, Nafeek’s sentence has been suspended in view of an appeal.
© Inter Press Service (2010) — All Rights ReservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Only 3 men to look after 500,000 housemaids - Ranjan

by Denagama Dhammika Ranaweera

UNP Ratnapura District MP Ranjan Ramanayake said there were only three males at the Sri Lankan Embassy in Saudi Arabia to look into the welfare of about 500,000 Sri Lankan housemaids employed in that country.

Ramanayake was in Matara yesterday to look into the progress of the work on the house being built for the Lankan housemaid L. P. Ariyawathi, who returned to the country over a fortnight ago from Saudi Arabia after undergoing immense torture.

Ramanayake undertook to construct a house for Ariyawathi. Her Saudi employers were alleged to have driven several nails into her body. She underwent a three-hour operation in the Kamburupitiya Hospital where surgeons removed the nails from her body.

Ramanayake told the media that Sri Lanka should follow the example of India and stop sending women as housemaids.

He also recalled the torture meted out to housemaids under Saudi laws that protect the perpetrators.

Where Is Justice For Aariyawathi?

By M.S.Shah Jahan

The Saudi sponsor, who is over 60, suffers from heart conditions. The sponsor’s doctors have advised him to do only 25 percent of his normal work because of his weak heart. How can a person in such poor health be able to do a strenuous activity like hammering nails into a woman’s body”?.
This was the outburst of Saad Al-Baddah, Chairman of the Saudi Arabian National Recruitment Committee (SANARCOM), which is responsible for the recruitment and management of foreign workers in the Kingdom.

He further said “the maid did not go to the doctors straight from the airport, only after a few days. A woman with so many nails inside her could not survive for weeks. These allegations against the Saudi employer are baseless and the whole episode looks like one big drama.”

Al-Baddah described the torture allegations as a figment of the maid’s imagination, adding that Saudi authorities are wondering how the nails and needles were embedded into her body. He said, 49-year-old L.T. Ariyawathi has signed a letter acknowledging her last salary and said that she did not experience any problems with her sponsor before she left Saudi Arabia.

The Saudi Embassy in Colombo also issued a statement casting doubt on Ariyawathi’s claims. “The important factor is that this housemaid cannot pass security checks and sophisticated machines at Riyadh and Colombo International Airports with these metal things inside her body,” an embassy spokesman said. He added that the Saudi ambassador was giving his personal attention to the matter and constantly being updated by officials from Sri Lanka’s External Affairs Ministry.

Now it is obvious that, as usual, the Saudi authorities are trying to wash their hand redirecting the matter by accusing the victim as offender. This has been the system in the country of ‘Kahba’ – towards which Muslims all over the world pray five times a day and the place of birth of Prophet Muhammad who compassionately treated his servants with kind and honour.

Prophet Muhammad’s slaves were well respected. Under him there was no two system in one country. A rule applied to all whether he is Arab or non Arab, a slave or his master. He said all were equal before the Almighty Allah. He made the African black slave Bilal as the first person to recite “Adhan” a call for prayers in Madina. This is an historical event in Islam.

A reader’s comment, given below, in the Gulf News of Dubai gives the true position of Saudi Arabia. “In Saudi Arabia expat is always at fault. If there is a car accident, the expat is arrested, if an expat tries to take his money out, then at airport he is arrested for being a thief. There is one law for Saudis, one for Americans and one for browns and blacks. Poor people get caught by sweet talk of agents and their life become hell. Knowing what I know, nothing will happen to the person who did that”.

When the female servants are concerned sex exploitation is also rampant. In some cases “Madam” herself encourages her husband to do so with the notion that these “slave women” can be put into any act. A sad fact to note here is, even in the point of departure some women become prey to the sex wolfs under the guise of recruiting agents or VIPs. This too must be stopped.

In addition to the cruel treatment to the foreigners, in many cases Arabs do not pay the agreed wages to the workers. A woman from Ampara district was virtually jailed in the house she worked for 16 years and finally returned with empty hand to the land of her where she did not have even a hut to sleep.

Al-Baddah’s version of ‘Aariyawathi signed a letter acknowledging her last salary and said that she did not experience any problems with her sponsor before she left Saudi Arabia’ is unbelievable and unauthenticated. First of all in what language the letter was written? It could definitely have been in the Swabhasha of Arabic. Was the content of the letter conveyed to her? Was there an Arabic/Singhala translator?

There is room for such questions to arise but never an answer will be forth coming. Because they are rich, we are poor. They are masters, we are slaves. For good or bad, in the Middle East, Sri Lanka has a nickname – “a country of house maids”. Saudi Arabia or other Gulf countries before a century was not as wealthy as they are today. In latter part of 1940, to meet a famine in Saudi Arabia, Saudis visited Indian subcontinent to collect money. In Sri Lanka late Doctor Khaleel was the Chairman of such fund raising committee.

Today their entire wealth is derived from oil. Oil was first discovered in Persia [Iran] in 1908 and it became a much needed commodity in the World War I [1914-1918] for tanks, ships and planes. Kuwait and Saudi Arabia spotted their oil in 1938. In World War II [1935-1945] oil played a crucial part in the conflict and decided the victory to the allies. Cutting off the oil supply to Japan considerably weakened Japan’s position in the war.

In1971 Libya, Saudi Arabia, Algeria and Iraq negotiated price increase from $2.55 to $3.45 per barrel. Arab oil embargo on oil exports to the US for siding with Israel in the Yom Kippur War found another oil prices rise from $2.90 to $11.65 in 1973. In 1979-1981 again the price was put up from $13.00 to $34.00. Since then it is like an ascending moon that never descends.

In world economy, such phenomenon rise of oil price made many poor countries poorer. Had the oil price stayed below $10 per barrel, the world history would have been much different. A century ago “the country of house maids” was in a much better economic shape than the country of Bedouins who run today in Mercedes Benz and Rolls Royce, and fly in private jets. The luxurious life style the Arabs enjoy today is unimaginable.

An article by Simon Mills in the Daily Mail on the 9th August brings out many interesting information about the ostentatious Arab tourists’ lavishness in London ;

The cars circling Harrods need to be seen to be believed. Million-pound Bugatti Veyrons – normally a rare sighting are around here, about as common as Ford Fiestas. In the cafes surrounding the department store, every single table is taken by people from the Gulf States and the Middle East — Abu Dhabi, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait and Dubai.

A young Arabic man leaving his vehicle outside the Berkley Hotel in Central London Around the corner from Harrods, I saw one Veyron with every inch of its bodywork coated in gold; another, chromed all over. Behind it, I watched a Veyron in pearlised white with shiny chromium wings making a noise like a scalded Rottweiler. The Saudi number plate on this car was ‘999’. The driver was around 25. I complimented him on his car and asked how he got it over to London. ‘In my plane,’ he said, grinning.

The number plate on a Rolls-Royce Phantom customised with a stainless steel bonnet is simply ‘1’. I discovered that a couple of years ago its Dubai-based owner paid £9 million for the registration number alone.

A long Maybach limousine, painted in distinct orange and matt black, had the letters ‘RRR’ are picked out on the vehicle’s boot in a diamond-studded font. The owner is Crown Prince Sheikh Ammar bin Humaid Al Nuaimi, the incredibly glamorous and fun-loving son of the multi-billionaire HRH Sheikh Rashid Bin Humid Al Nuaimi of Ajman.

There were a£1.2 million Koenigsegg CCXR (one of only six ever made) and a £350,000 Lamborghini Murcielago LP670-4 SuperVeloce illegally parked outside Harrods.

During August, whole floors of hotels around Hyde Park are block-booked for Middle Eastern oligarchs, while staff up their game by flying in topnotch Arabic entertainers for private shows in the biggest suites, adapting restaurant menus and parking the guests’ flashest cars out in front.

One wanted a personal shopping experience requesting that two designer stores be closed for their private viewing. ‘During August, we will often be asked to take a selection of our most expensive diamond necklaces, rings and bracelets to a suite at a hotel in Knightsbridge,’ says jeweller Stephen Webster, whose shop is on Mount Street, in nearby Mayfair. ‘Arab customers like to shop late, but our store isn’t permitted to have late-night opening . . . so we are happy to take the store to them.’

Another famous London jeweller, who would not be named, said: ‘They like big pieces and coloured stones. The sums they are prepared to pay for them are incredible. It is not unusual for Middle Eastern customers to spend £20 million in a single visit.’This extravagant life style is quite contrast to the simple living of Prophet Muhammad. Is it oil that makes the Arabs spendthrift and rude to the small? Oh, Allah it is said the tear of the poor like Aariyawathi’s is sharper than any double edged sword.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Maid and nails: Let’s find the truth


Housemaids are always in the news.

Saudis need them and the Sri Lankan women would work for them because of their poverty.

This has been going on for years, encouraged by the government, since the government in Colombo too depends on their remittances in much needed dollars.

There have been several instances where housemaids have been abused, humiliated and subjected to whatever maybe, which have driven many to commit suicide. Despite all this, the women want to go to the Middle East and the government is doing everything to export them.

There is an institution called Sri Lanka Bureau for Foreign Employment, which charges a fee from all leaving the country for employment abroad. SLBFE is expected to look after their interests and also train them. The question is whether this bureau is doing its job.

Obviously it is not.

As for the latest case where a woman was tortured by having 23 nails driven into her body, I could not figure out how she got through the customs, immigration and metal detectors at the Jeddah Airport. The officials at the airport are very strict. At least that is my experience. The whole thing is intriguing.

With all these nails, how did she manage to travel this distance seated in a plane? The airport authorities and the in-flight staff of the plane have to be questioned. She should have been offloaded and an inquiry begun then and there.

In the same Sri Lankan paper that broke the news for the first time, there was a news item under the heading: “Tortured housemaid in good mental health: Doctors.”

This is really puzzling. Did she undergo “acupuncture” with nails at the hands of a local practitioner?

I hope there will be a proper inquiry and the Saudi government will take suitable action to punish if anyone is found guilty and compensate the victim. In conclusion, I would like to say, “truth is stranger than fiction”. Let us know the truth.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Maid Torture report arrives in Kingdom -

Daily Mirror
Maid torture report arrives in Kingdom
Monday, 30 August 2010 00:57
The Lankan Embassy received on Saturday the medical report regarding the housemaid L.T. Ariyawathi (49) who was found with 24 nails in her body allegedly driven in by Saudi employers. A video statement from her was also handed over to the Saudi Embassy in Colombo. “We have the report on the domestic aide,” an embassy official said, adding that the mission to take up the case with the Foreign Affairs Ministry in Saudi requesting action against the employer.Although the mission knows the details of the Saudi sponsor, the official said it was no protocol to contact him directly. Arab News tried to contact the sponsor but did not get a response.

“All our actions will be channelled through the Saudi Foreign Ministry,” he said.

Doctors in Sri Lanka removed on Friday 13 nails and five needles from the maid’s body. Six needles in her hands reportedly could not be removed because the procedure would damage nerves and arteries.

Condemning it as an inhumane act on an innocent worker, Kingsley Ranawaka, chairman of the Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment (SLBFE), said that the Saudi authorities should wake up regarding such human rights violations.

“Prompt action by the Saudi government will not only give confidence to the rest of the workers but will also stand as a warning against such merciless employers who treat workers like animals,” Ranawaka told Arab News from Colombo.

As a welfare measure, he added the SLBFE was making arrangements to build a house for the maid.

“It was the sole purpose of her going for overseas employment and we want to fulfill her wishes,” Ranawaka said, adding that these workers went for foreign jobs in search of greener pastures to improve their living conditions back home. “Unfortunately, a few end up with such misery.”

Ranawaka said that last year around 35,000 housemaids came to the Kingdom and 17,000 had already come during the first of the current year.

The state-run radio in Colombo said the chairman of the National Insurance Fund Senaka Abeygunasekera visited the patient at the hospital Friday and awarded the first insurance installment of 100,000 rupees (SR 3,300). Another 250,000 rupees (SR 8,200) will be given to her shortly.

In a related development, the incident of the tortured housemaid had caused panick among the new housemaids who are scheduled to arrive in the Kingdom.

A job agent in Colombo told Arab News on Friday that he had 10 housemaids ready to be dispatched to Riyadh for employment but now they are hesitating to come to the Kingdom because of this alarming news of human torture.

“This is going to affect our trade,” said the agent, who wished to remain anonymous.

(Arab News)

FR case against state by migrant worker

Sunday Times

FR case against state by migrant worker
An aggrieved 51-year Sri Lankan migrant worker has filed probably the first-ever fundamental rights application demanding compensation from the state and the job agent for a botched job offer in Qatar .
In his application filed in the Supreme Court on Friday, the worker, H.M. Bandara of Balabowa, Dewalapola says he was duped into signing a job agreement at a lower-than-agreed rate and as a result suffered in Qatar .

He says he first signed a contract to work as a fitter/plumber for a wage of 900 Qatar Riyals with job agent, Formosa Communication Co and the Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment also attesting the document.

Later he was forced by the agent to sign another document – or lose the job – at a reduced rate of 600 Riyals and the job description changed to ‘waiter’. He had already paid the agent Rs 125,000 and had no option, the petition filed by his lawyer, Lakshan Dias, said.

Arriving in Qatar on January 8, 2010, he was assigned the work of a labourer and due to the nature of the hard work, he received several injuries. “There are many Sri Lankans facing the same plight,” he said, adding that he returned to Sri Lanka , about two weeks later, and complained to the bureau. He has sought relief in the form of compensation of Rs 600,000, the cancellation of the agent’s license, and for the bureau to develop a compensation formula for all workers who are in similar circumstances.

Doha jobs: Embassy sets age limits for Lankans

Sunday Times

By Leon Berenger

Foreign employment agencies were yesterday fuming over a new age limit for Lankan workers heading to take jobs in the state of Doha , saying it would ruin employment prospects there.

The Lankan Embassy in that country has stated that those taking up employment in Doha should be above the age of 25 and not exceed 45 years, creating fears among employers who will now look elsewhere to fill vacancies, Faizer Mackeen, Secretary of the Association of Licensed Foreign Employment Agencies (ALFEA) said.

He said there has been a steady demand for Lankan hands in that country over the past few months with some 60,000 or more jobs lined up for next year alone.

“This new rule will only help to dampen this prospect and employers will turn elsewhere to countries such as Bangladesh , India , Pakistan and Nepal and the Sri Lankan market will be forced into the doldrums losing vital foreign exchange in the process,” Mr. Mackeen said.

He added that ALFEA had made strong representations to the highest authorities in the country to try and reverse this new rule but there has been a weak response.

“At no time did we endorse such a rule regarding the Doha station and it is purely a matter between the Lankan Mission in Qatar and the External Affairs Ministry in Colombo,” Mr. L. K. Ruhunuge the Additional General Manager of the Sri Lanka Foreign Employment Bureau (SLFEB),” told the Sunday Times. He said this position had already been conveyed to ALFEA who were advised to take the matter up with the External Affairs Ministry officials handling the foreign labour desks.

An External Affairs Ministry spokesperson denied that such a new rule was imposed by the Embassy in Doha . “We have made this very clear to the SLFEB Chairman Kingsley Ranawaka,” he said without elaborating.