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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.

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