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Saudi Arabia

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.

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