Sri Lanka missions report sharp drop in cases of runaway maids

Updated 11 March 2014
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Sri Lanka missions report sharp drop in cases of runaway maids

Following the end of the amnesty, the Sri Lankan missions in Jeddah and Riyadh are witnessing a sharp drop in the number of runaway housemaids.
“There is a remarkable decrease in the number of runaway housemaids coming to the Jeddah mission,” Consul General at the Sri Lankan Consulate in Jeddah, Dr. Atham Bawa Uthuma Lebbe, said on Monday. The consul general pointed out that the main reason for the fall in this category of maidservants is that those who are currently working in various households are afraid to run away from their homes fearing adverse consequences.
Earlier, he recalled that the Jeddah mission used to receive more than 100 runaway maids on a monthly basis but now it receives less than 10 maids a month.
Recently, he said a labor court in Jeddah asked two runaway housemaids to pay SR25,000 each to be deported to Colombo, their hometown.
Uthuma Lebbe explained that a Saudi sponsor spends more than SR20,000 to get a maid from Colombo. “How can he recover the money if the maid runs away from the household ?,” he quipped.
To get a Muslim maid from Colombo, the sponsor has to pay SR5,000 to the maid in addition to the visa fees, agent’s fees and the airfare.
A senior official from the Sri Lankan Embassy in Riyadh said that his mission is also experiencing a similar drop in the number of runaway cases. “Earlier, we used to see at least 10 maids a day, but now we hardly get to see one maid a day,” the diplomat said.
He pointed out that another reason for the sharp drop in the runaway cases is that the two countries have streamlined the recruitment process.
“The maids are content with the minimum salary of SR900. The domestics are also given a proper orientation program prior to their arrival in the Kingdom and they are taught basic Arabic to familiarize with the local cultural environment,” he said.
Last year, 15 Saudi sponsors filed cases against Sri Lankan housemaids who ran away from their homes in the Eastern Province.
The sponsors claimed that they had spent around SR20,000 to SR25,000 each to recruit a maid from Colombo. However, the maids ran away shortly after their arrival in the Kingdom, it was alleged.
With the help of the local police, the sponsors arrested the runaway maids and brought them to book.
In their legal action, the Saudi sponsors claimed a reimbursement of the money spent on the recruitment of these maids to the Kingdom from the concerned parties.
In Colombo, there is a great demand for housemaids bound for Saudi Arabia. The agents had to lure these maids by paying them around SR5,000 prior to their departure to the Kingdom. On arrival in the Kingdom, the maids wanted to go back home by giving false reasons, leaving their sponsors in the lurch.
According to the new labor contract introduced by the Sri Lankan government last year, a maid is entitled to get more than SR900 as her monthly salary in the Kingdom.



According to an agent in Colombo, the maids sent to Saudi Arabia get a six-month salary in advance while they are still in Colombo and before their departure to Saudi Arabia. Despite that they are still not content with the set-up in the host country.


Height of adventure: Treading the ‘Edge of the World’ near Riyadh

Updated 19 April 2018
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Height of adventure: Treading the ‘Edge of the World’ near Riyadh

  • Cliffs in Tuwaiq were formed as a result of the movement of the Arabian plate toward the northeast because of the spread of the Red Sea rift
  • Several prominent Saudi tour companies offer daylong excursions to the site

Thrill seekers and fitness gurus all over the Kingdom will be pleased to know that their choices for weekend activities have increased. 

Several tour operators in Riyadh have started offering trips to the area known as the Edge of the World, making the location more accessible than ever.

With the country’s obesity rates on the rise and many citizens growing more concerned about their physical health and stress levels, people are seeking ways to maintain their fitness without having to restrict themselves to the monotony of a gym routine.

One such solution that has steadily increased in popularity over the past year is hiking, which many have embraced as being much more exciting and fulfilling than spending hours on the treadmill. And most popular of all for hiking and other fitness activities in a natural setting is the magnificent landmark of Jabal Fihrayn, more commonly known as the Edge of the World.

Described as a “window framed by rock,” the Edge of the World offers stunning views of the valley below, a lush grove of acacia trees teeming with wildlife and vegetation. The spot is well-known for being a favorite of visiting picnickers.

Hikers can choose from several trails of varying levels of difficulty, making their way to the top of the Tuwaiq escarpment to take in the magnificent views at the top of the trail, where the colossal cliff faces drop off to reveal the dizzying height from the valley below. In addition to the rich wildlife unique to the location, you can also find samples of fossilized coral and raw mineral deposits in certain areas of the valley.

The cliffs in the areas were formed as a result of the tectonic movement of the Arabian plate toward the northeast because of the spread of the Red Sea rift situated 1,000 km to the west of Tuwaiq.

Due to the increasing popularity of the site, the authorities have built a hardtop that leads to the gates of the sites and arrangements are in place to protect the area and its natural treasures. 

Several prominent Saudi tour companies offer daylong excursions to the site. The more intrepid explorer also has the option to go alone; though past visitors recommend that solo travelers take an all-terrain, 4x4 vehicle and extra precaution. Visitors can spend the day at the site and leave before 6 p.m. (when the gates are closed for the night) or stay behind for a night of camping to enjoy the sunset and the breathtaking celestial views of a star-studded night sky.

Nora Alfard, amateur hiking enthusiast and two-time visitor to the location, was quick to offer praise about her trip. 

“The trip out there was a bit tiring, but totally worth it,” she said. “The views are stunning, and the hiking itself is not that difficult. Most people should be able to make it to the top without too much trouble.” She said she was likely to go a third time, and encouraged others to do the same.

The Edge of the World is roughly 100km northwest of Riyadh, about 1.5 hours’ drive from the capital. Visitors should be prepared for at least 30 minutes of hiking, possibly more depending on your trail and your level of fitness and experience. Previous visitors recommend bringing water and snacks, and stress the importance of dressing appropriately — hiking shoes only!

Decoder

What is hiking?

Hiking means a long, vigorous walk, usually on trails in the countryside. Day hikers generally carry at least food, a map or a GPS navigation device.