Colombo Page - August 5, 2010
Workers say many are physically and sexually abused in Saudi Arabia
Nearly 350 Sri Lankan housemaids are in a jail in Saudi Arabia waiting for the help of authorities to go home, a Sri Lankan worker said.
The housemaids, most of whom have fled their masters in Saudi Arabia as a result of physical and sexual abuse, the worker told BBC Sandeshaya from Olaya Security camp in the capital Riyadh .
Workers are sent to the camp by Sri Lanka embassy officials after keeping them in transit for few days. The housemaids are then kept in the camp until Saudi police conduct investigations and permit them to leave.
"Some were physically abused, beaten, not give food for a long time. Some were not paid for years and there are pregnant women who have been sexually abused," the detained worker said.
The worker accused the Saudi police who guard the premises of taking bribes to hand over some of the women to Saudi 'Babas' (masters).
Some Sri Lankan workers were earlier stranded in Jeddah
"Even yesterday, a girl from Valaichchenai left when called by the police. She never came back. Her clothes are still in the camp," she said.
She said five Sri Lankan women earlier taken in a similar manner were later found dead in front of the camp.
"We don't know what happened to the bodies thereafter."
The worker added that thousands of inmates - nationals from Philippines , Indonesia , India , Nepal , Kenya and Bangladesh in addition to Sri Lanka - are suffering in the camp without proper food, clothing or any sanitary facilities.
"Our request to camp authorities to at least wash our bed sheets which were not cleaned for months, went unheard," she said.
Sri Lankan diplomatic officials in Riyadh who reject allegations of abuse by stranded maids say that they have received any complaints so far.
Labour Counsellor Nimal Ranawaka told BBC Sandeshaya that any such complaints will be investigated.
He added that the Sri Lankan maids in addition to workers from several other countries are housed in the Olaya camp in transition.