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.