A total of 98 stranded Sri Lankan housemaids will be repatriated this week on an initiative made by the country's consulate in Jeddah.
Consul General Adambawa Uthumalebbe said yesterday that consulate officials handed over a large group of domestic workers and six children to the Deportation Center (Tarheel) in Jeddah.
He explained that the repatriation of the runaway maids has to be streamlined through the Deportation Center, after the mission processed the travel documents, including the emergency certificates.
The consul general said the Sri Lankan Bureau of Foreign Employment (SLBFE) provided air tickets to 42 stranded housemaids. The others paid for their tickets to Colombo. Head of the Labor Section at the consulate, M.M. Jiffry, said two of the six children were infants and the others aged between three and five years.
Jiffry said a mission survey showed that most of the runaway maids had left their workplaces within three months after arriving in Jeddah. The common complaints of these runaway maids included harassments and nonpayment of wages. However, he pointed out that some of the maids ran away looking for better salaries elsewhere.
The average contracted salary for housemaids is SR650 per month. Saudi employers who hire the runaway maids locally pay them up to SR1,500 a month.
A Saudi sponsor has to spend at least SR10,000 to hire a maid from abroad, which includes visa fees, air fare and agency fees.
On an average, the Sri Lankan Embassy in Riyadh receives 10 runaway maids daily, while two such maids report to the consulate in Jeddah each day.
According to reports, some of the cases are settled at the missions through negotiations with their sponsors while others are repatriated. The official said the mission would work out a scheme to encourage the maidservants to continue their work with the contracted Saudi sponsors till the stipulated period is over.
Despite the overseas maids' bulk foreign remittances to the national coffers of Sri Lanka, its government has plans to replace the country's overseas workers with semi-skilled and skilled workers and with professionals from Sri Lanka.
The government plans to set the maximum age limit for these maids at 43 years. The existing age limit for housemaid is currently set between 21 to 50 years.
The new rule would indirectly discourage women from going abroad to do household chores, sources from Colombo said. (Source: Arab news)