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No letup in abuse of domestic workers, says Lankan diplomat

Around three complaints are filed daily by Sri Lankan domestic workers against their Saudi sponsors, according to a statement issued by the Sri Lankan Consulate.
M.B.M. Zarook, consul for labor affairs, said the complaints are mostly regarding lack of salary payments, the renewal of the domestic workers’ contracts without their consent and some instances of beatings and physical abuse.
“Fifty Sri Lankan domestic workers made escape attempts in 2013,” said Zarook. “Cases involving sexual harassment among women workers transpire very rarely and do not exceed one case in every 1,000 workers.”
At present, around 350,000 workers and drivers reside in the Kingdom, with domestic workers representing 80 percent of them.
Zarook said the Sri Lankan government is providing training courses for domestic workers for three weeks in Sri Lanka prior to their traveling to Saudi Arabia.
“Workers receive language training, etiquette of hospitality training, lessons on how to run washing machines and home appliances, cooking lessons, and training on how to care for the elderly and children,” he said.
Early this month, the Kingdom decided to sign agreements with six labor-exporting countries to recruit domestic helpers as part of a comprehensive plan to streamline the domestic service sector.
Ahmed F. Al-Fahaid, deputy labor minister for international affairs, confirmed that Sri Lanka would ink a labor treaty in Riyadh on Jan. 14.
Mangala Randeniya, deputy general manager and media spokesman of the Sri Lankan Bureau of Foreign Employment, said the agreement aims to reduce the cases of abuse and guarantee fair and humane treatment of domestic workers.
He said the contract would cover 12 groups of workers, including house drivers, cleaners, housemaids, janitors, tutors and waiters working for individuals or families.
However, the contract would only permit employment of domestic workers through licensed recruitment agencies, which act in accordance with the Kingdom’s regulations. It also extends to a protection mechanism, including insurance, especially for domestic workers.
Commenting on the visa rates, Zarook said it was an open market, and that the consulate had nothing to do with that. He confirmed that the rates depend on the brokers as well as the intermediary groups who travel between Sri Lanka and the Kingdom to raise the fare of visas and misuse the demand of families and scarcity of labor.
“The consulate plays a vital role by informing the recruitment offices and the workers in Sri Lanka about the importance of following work regulations in the Kingdom,” said Zarook

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