Sponsors can’t withhold passports of Sri Lankan domestics anymore

Updated 15 January 2014

Sponsors can’t withhold passports of Sri Lankan domestics anymore

Sri Lankan household workers will no longer be required to surrender their passports to their sponsors according to a new agreement signed on Monday between the Kingdom and Sri Lanka.
Under the agreement, the salaries of domestic workers will also be remitted to their bank accounts.
The two governments signed on Monday a memorandum of understanding for the protection of Sri Lankan domestic workers in the Kingdom.
The agreement was signed in Riyadh between Labor Minister Adel Fakeih and Dilan Perera, Sri Lankan minister of foreign employment promotion and welfare.
Until now, Saudi employers have retained the passports of their domestic helps and have paid their salaries in cash.
Saudi Labor Minister Adel Fakeih said that this is an important agreement which protects both the employer and the employee. He also said the agreement would pave the way for more workers coming into the Kingdom.
The agreement will have the same provisions, including a protection mechanism for domestic help like the one the Kingdom signed with India and the Philippines earlier this month.
“The agreement would streamline the recruitment scheme between the two countries and help them resolve several issues facing the recruitment of domestic aides from Colombo to the Kingdom,” Fakeih said.
He said that recruitment should only be processed through licensed employment agencies. He also said that workers should be subject to sound working environments.
He also said the pact ensures that the right workers come for employment and they should be physically fit to serve in the Kingdom and able to adapt themselves to the cultural environment of the host country.
The labor agreement for domestic workers recruitment was a joint effort by Riyadh and Colombo to create a unified and well-regulated system for recruitment with emphasis on monitoring the working conditions of workers.
It will cover 12 categories of domestic workers, including housemaids, drivers, cleaners and waiters employed by individuals.
The proposed agreement includes provisions that stipulate that contracts should be drafted a language that is understood by the worker and that the worker must be informed of what to do and whom to turn to in case of an emergency.
The worker also must be made aware of the facilities available to him or her, especially when it comes to health and personal safety, and the employer must agree to terminate the service contract after a maximum of two years if the employee wishes to leave his or her place of employment. In addition, the employee has the right to retain all his or her travel documents at all times.
Minister Dilan Perera thanked the Saudi government for its wonderful cooperation to materialize the agreement.
He said the decision to sign the agreement was taken during the visit of Ziyad Al-Sayigh, deputy minister for customer services and labor relations to Sri Lanka, in December last year during the two-day Asia-Gulf States Regional Dialogue on standard terms of employment for migrant domestic workers held in the Sri Lankan capital.
Al-Sayigh held discussions with Sri Lankan labor officials on the sidelines of the meeting. The dialogue, sponsored by UN Women and the Sri Lankan Ministry of Foreign Employment Promotion and Welfare, was attended by representatives from 20 countries, including Middle Eastern nations.
Describing it as a government to government accord, the Lankan minister said that under the new agreement, the original passports of domestic workers will be in their possession and their salaries will be remitted to their designated banks.
“In my view, this will be the most protective mechanism for domestic workers in the entire Gulf region,” Perera said. There are some 1.7 million Lankan overseas workers, 90 percent of which are in the Middle East.
Vadivel Krishnamoorhy, Sri Lankan ambassador in Riyadh, said that a standard employment agreement for the engagement of Sri Lankan domestic workers in the Kingdom would be adopted following implementation of this agreement.
“Under the pact, domestic workers can be assured of a safer, more decent and less problematic working environment,” he noted.

Hajj 2018: More than 2 million pilgrims begin journey of a lifetime

Updated 19 August 2018

Hajj 2018: More than 2 million pilgrims begin journey of a lifetime

  • Massive safety and security operation swings into action as annual Hajj begins
  • The Hajj is an unparalleled logistical operation, with statistics to match. The Saudi Ministry of Health alone has employed nearly 30,000 physicians, pharmacists, nurses and technicians to provide health care to the pilgrims

MAKKAH: The number of pilgrims in Saudi Arabia passed two million on Saturday, Saudi security chiefs said, as the country finished preparations for the annual Hajj pilgrimage to begin on Sunday.

A final tally will be announced at the beginning of Eid Al-Adha on Tuesday, said Interior Ministry security spokesman Maj. Gen. Mansour Al-Turki.

The pilgrims have flown in from almost every country in the world, but all had a similar story to tell — this is the experience of a lifetime.

“This is the first time I have seen the Grand Mosque and the Kaaba. It is the best feeling of my life to be able to perform the Hajj,” said Hisham Mostafa, 50, an accountant from Aleppo who fled the war in Syria five years ago and now lives in Turkey.

Nayef Ahmed, 37, from Yemen, sold a plot of land to be able to afford to travel to Saudi Arabia for Hajj. “Because of the war the cost was very high. But being here I feel comfort and peace and I pray to God for the war to end,” he said.

Najwa, 59, from Tunisia, said: “I came for Umrah in 2007 and today after 10 years of registering and waiting, I am here. I cannot describe the feeling. I cry every day.”

Over the next few days the pilgrims will retrace the steps of the Prophet Muhammad 14 centuries ago — and their safety and security are a Saudi priority.

“We will prevent any actions that are not part of the Hajj ritual and any act that may impact the safety of pilgrims or their ability to perform the rite,” Al-Turki said.

To ensure their safety, pilgrims will wear electronic identification bracelets, connected to GPS. “There is a comprehensive electronic agenda for every pilgrim and we have provided many apps that offer guidance,” said the Minister of Haj and Umrah, Mohammed Salih Bentin.

“We have a fleet of more than 18,000 buses, all of them linked to a control system that tracks their path.”

The Hajj is an unparalleled logistical operation, with statistics to match. The Saudi Ministry of Health alone has employed nearly 30,000 physicians, pharmacists, nurses and technicians to provide health care to the pilgrims.

The Saudi Red Crescent is operating 127 emergency centers, 361 ambulance cars and 20 emergency motorcycles, with nearly 2,000 staff on duty in Makkah and Madinah.

There will be 22 operational hospitals in Madinah and the holy sites, and 15 temporary emergency centers, supported by a fleet of nearly 90 ambulances and more than 650 paramedics.