35 Lankan maids await deportation

Updated 26 December 2014
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35 Lankan maids await deportation

A total of 35 stranded Sri Lankan housemaids will be sent home from Jeddah beginning next week, the Sri Lankan Consulate in Jeddah told Arab News on Thursday. “This is the last group of stranded housemaids handed to Tarheel for repatriation home,” Consul General Adambawa Uthuma Lebbe said.
The group comprised maidservants who had run away from their homes and had sought asylum at the mission. The common complaints made by the runaway maids were nonpayment of wages, breach of contract, harassment and ill-treatment.
The consul general explained that most of these cases are due to misunderstandings between the employer and the employee. “Such cases are settled with the Saudi sponsors and the maids sent back to their original workplaces,” he said. Where reconciliation is not possible, the maids are sent home.
He also said that the cost of the air passage for the 35 maids will be borne by the government since they do not have money to buy their tickets.
During the amnesty period, the consulate sent 13,500 illegal workers to Colombo, the diplomat said, pointing out that since January 2014 another 1,000 were sent to Colombo with the help of the immigration department in Jeddah.
Following the end of the amnesty period, the Sri Lankan missions in Jeddah and Riyadh have witnessed "a remarkable decrease in the number of runaway housemaids coming to the Jeddah mission,” he confirmed, adding 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 due to the risk of adverse consequences.
Earlier, he recalled, the Jeddah mission used to receive more than 100 runaway maids on a monthly basis but now it receives less than 10 a month.
Recently, a labor court in Jeddah asked two runaway maids to pay SR25,000 each before their deportation to Colombo. The consul general explained that a Saudi sponsor spends more than SR20,000 to get a maid from Colombo. 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.
The Sri Lankan Embassy in Riyadh has also experienced a similar drop in the number of runaway cases. Earlier, it used to see at least 10 maids a day, but now it hardly gets one maid a day.
An official from the embassy 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 before the law. 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 parties concerned.


Saudi businesswomen eye greater role in the economy with end to driving ban

The end of the driving ban is expected to help bring an economic windfall for Saudi women. (Shutterstock)
Updated 11 min 28 sec ago
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Saudi businesswomen eye greater role in the economy with end to driving ban

  • The historic move is a huge step forward for businesswomen in the Saudi Arabia, says businesswoman
  • A recent survey by the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce indicated that transportation was a major concern holding Saudi women back from joining the labor market

The end of the driving ban will boost women’s financial power and allow them to play a bigger role in economic and social diversification in line with Vision 2030, prominent businesswomen said on Friday.

Hind Khalid Al-Zahid was the first Saudi woman designated as an executive director — for Dammam Airport Company — and also heads the Businesswomen Center at the Eastern Province Chamber of Commerce and Industry. 

She sees the historic move as a huge step forward for businesswomen in the Kingdom.

“Women being allowed to drive is very important; of course this will help a lot in sustainable development as the lifting of the ban on women driving came as a wonderful opportunity to increase women’s participation in the workforce,” she told Arab News on Friday, ahead of the end of the ban on Sunday.

She added that women in the job market are under-represented; they make up to 22 percent of the national workforce of about six million according to official estimates. Lifting the ban will help to take women’s representation in the workforce to 30 percent by 2030, she said.

“This is not just the right thing to do for women’s emancipation, but also an essential step in economic and social development as part of the reforms,” she said.

She said that there were different obstacles in increasing women’s participation in the workforce and other productive activities, and the driving ban was one of them. It was a strategic issue that needed to be addressed on a priority basis. With the issue resolved, it would help immensely in giving Saudi women better representation as they would help to diversify the Saudi economy and society.

She said that women could contribute hugely to the workforce and labor market as half of Saudi human resources were female, and unless allowed to excel in different sectors it would not be possible to do better, mainly because of restricted mobility.

A recent survey by the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce indicated that transportation was a major concern holding Saudi women back from joining the labor market.

Nouf Ibrahim, a businesswoman in Riyadh, said: “It will surely boost female economic participation and help increase women’s representation in the workforce immensely. It will also help to reduce the overall national unemployment rate as most of the unemployed are women and many of them are eligible as university graduates.”

She echoed the opinion that the move would help to bring an economic windfall for Saudi women, making it easier for them to work and do business, and thus play a bigger and better role that would help economic and social diversification in line with Saudi Vision 2030.

“Being able to drive from Sunday onwards after the ban is lifted will be a wonderful experience. Earlier we were dependent on a male family member and house driver to take us to workplace, to the shopping center, school or other required places for some work, now we can drive and that will allow active participation in productive work,” Sulafa Hakami, a Saudi woman working as the digital communication manager with an American MNC in Riyadh, told Arab News.

“Saudi women can now share effectively the bigger and better responsibilities,” she said.