(MENAFN - Arab News) The government deported 65 Sri Lankan migrant workers yesterday, said the Sri Lanka Foreign Employment Bureau (SLFEB).
"The deported migrant workers, arrested by Saudi police for violations of Saudi residency laws during the last few months, arrived in a special flight at the international airport in Katunayake in Sri Lanka yesterday," said a statement released by the SLFEB.
"The Sri Lankan Embassy was not aware of this mass deportation," said an embassy spokesman.
Saudi police arrested the workers for the violation of Saudi residency laws and for engaging in employment in places other than the ones assigned to them in their contracts, said the statement. The deported workers were also involved in other offenses.
Saudi Immigration authorities decided to deport them immediately for the offense of violating the service agreements. SLFEB took measures to provide the travel fee for the returned workers in order to facilitate their deportation as soon as possible. The embassy spokesman, who preferred to remain anonymous, said he came to know about the repatriation only when a Sri Lankan official called him and informed him about the arrival of the workers in Sri Lanka.
He also spoke about the problems faced by the embassy in handling different labor-related cases. He said about 380 Sri Lankan domestic workers are currently trapped in the migrant camps in Riyadh and in Eastern Province after fleeing the homes of abusive employers.
"They include those stranded at the embassy's shelter, where the embassy is providing food and water besides coordinating with Saudi officials to send them back," the spokesman added.
The embassy official said that about 3,000 female workers have been returned to Sri Lanka by the embassy in cooperation with Saudi government agencies so far this year.
"On average, we receive at least 10 complaints from domestic helpers daily," said the spokesman, adding that the complaints range from harassment by employers to nonpayment of salary and physical torture. In some cases, workers claim that they were left without food and water by the employers. Some women, who have no means of getting home, claim that they experienced a catalog of abuses, from beatings and burnings to being forced to work without pay, sometimes for years on end. They also say they are not allowed to communicate with their families at home.
But the stories of employers are quite different.
In most cases, the housemaids are not properly trained "in baby-sitting or housekeeping," Jamal Al-Otaibi, a Saudi employer, told Arab News.
There are also several cases in which maids from different Asian countries are currently either serving jail terms or facing death penalty because of their complicity in different crimes including the murder of their employers, he added. Untrained women are also found to inflict injuries on Saudi children under their care, he observed.
This is the reason possibly that Sri Lanka is considering blacklisting migrant workers who have been convicted of crimes in their host countries.