Report on fee hike for Sri Lankan helpers misleading: Envoy

Sri Lankan Ambassador Azmi Thassim
Updated 18 April 2017
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Report on fee hike for Sri Lankan helpers misleading: Envoy

RIYADH: Reports of a hefty rise in recruitment fees for Sri Lankan domestic helpers, including maids, are misleading, said Sri Lankan Ambassador Azmi Thassim on Sunday.
“The Sri Lankan government is not involved in the hike of recruitment fees because business transactions are done by private Saudi and Sri Lankan agents,” he said.
A report published in local Arabic press said Sri Lankan recruitment offices have raised recruitment costs of domestic workers from $1,560 to $3,000, representing a 92 percent hike.
The report added that Sri Lankan agents have been delaying or suspending travel permits of workers waiting to be deployed in the Kingdom “to put pressure on Saudi recruitment offices to pay the hefty amount for hiring domestic aides.”
Thassim said: “The Kingdom and Sri Lanka will be holding talks soon to address the grievances of the parties concerned, and will hammer out a solution to the problem.”
The Saudi Embassy in Sri Lanka earlier issued an instruction for Saudi recruitment agents to pay $1,560 to hire a Sri Lankan housemaid, he added.
In the run-up to the holy month of Ramadan and Eid festivities, Saudi Arabia requires more household workers.
Both governments are keen to talk and solve the issue, but “private business transactions between Saudi and Sri Lankan recruitment agencies cannot be stopped by the government until Riyadh and Colombo reach a settlement,” the envoy said.
The report quoted Hussain Al-Mutairi, head of the recruitment committee at the Eastern Province Chamber of Commerce and Industry, as saying: “Sri Lankan recruitment offices have played with recruitment costs, which were at $1,560 as stipulated by an agreement signed between the Saudi and Sri Lankan offices.”
He added that the Sri Lankan offices “have also hiked other related charges including the monthly salary, which was raised and fixed at SR1,300 ($346) by Sri Lankan agents last February compared to SR1,100 as previously agreed.”
Al-Mutairi accused Sri Lankan recruitment offices of exerting enormous pressure on their Saudi counterparts.
He called on Saudi offices “not to respond to these pressures ... A unified position from the Saudi side will make the Sri Lankan offices work in line with the unified price agreed upon by both parties.”
Saudi Arabia is home to about 200,000 Sri Lankan workers, about 50 percent of them domestic helpers, mostly housemaids.


ThePlace: Habala village, the sanctuary of flowers

Photo/Getty images
Updated 37 min 58 sec ago
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ThePlace: Habala village, the sanctuary of flowers

  • The valley is dotted with small huts that were once the villagers’ homes

Can abandoned places, with empty echoes of what were once people’s homes, be beautiful? The answer, at least in the case of the mountain village of Habala in Saudi Arabia, is a resounding yes. The haunting sense of history there adds to the sheer natural beauty of the place.
Habala is located at a one-hour drive from Abha. The village was established during the Ottoman Empire when the locals tried to flee the Turks.
With its mountain views and lush green vegetation, Habala is breathtakingly beautiful. The main village is located in a valley about 300 yards below the summit of the mountain that overlooks it, which rises 1.23 miles above sea level. At one time the village was only accessible by rope ladder, which is why its name is derived from “habal,” the Arabic word for rope. Nowadays it is a lot easier to reach, thanks to cable cars that carry visitors up to the valley.
The former residents of the village were known as the “flower men” because of their custom of wearing garlands of dried flowers and herbs in their hair, and modern-day visitors to Habala are greeted by men in the traditional dress of the villagers, including the flowers. Tourists can even buy floral crowns as souvenirs.
The valley is dotted with small huts that were once the villagers’ homes. In these huts you can sit and enjoy a cup of Qahwa — Arabic coffee — while enjoying the spectacular view. In winter, when fog often envelops the mountain, the village looks as though it is floating on a cloud. It is a sight not to be missed.