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Maid works ‘without salary for five years’

A Sri Lankan maid here was not paid a salary for five years and not allowed to go home for nine years, an official from the country’s embassy claimed recently.
“The Sri Lankan woman D. Gunawathie, 43, had been working for a Saudi sponsor and was kept a virtual slave inside the house for the past nine years,” a senior official from the embassy told Arab News on Friday.
He said the case was detected when her passport came up for renewal at the mission. “We normally ask the sponsor to bring the passport holder to the mission to ascertain whether the maid is working without any problems in the Kingdom,” he said. When the sponsor refused to do so, the embassy officials became suspicious.
“The whole thing came out when the sponsor was forced to bring the maid to the mission after a request was made through his recruiting agent,” he said.
He said the maid had claimed her employer and his six children tortured her regularly. The diplomat said there were scars consistent with torture on her body.
Gunawathie told Arab News she had asked her employer to send her home several times. “This fell on deaf ears,” she said.
The average contracted salary for housemaids is SR650 a month. However, employers pay illegal maids up to SR1,500 because they do not have to shoulder recruitment costs of SR10,000, which include visa fees, airfare and agency fees.
The Sri Lankan embassy gets around 10 runaway maids a day, while its consulate in Jeddah receives around two a day.
According to reports, some of the cases are settled at the missions through negotiations with sponsors, while other workers are repatriated home. There are sporadic incidents of death due to murder, suicides and industrial accidents.
Despite the contribution of maids’ remittances, the Sri Lankan government plans to replace them with semi-skilled and skilled professionals.

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