Riyadh, Apr 8: The number of runaway housemaids seeking refuge at the Sri Lankan mission has doubled following the government’s enforcement of the Nitaqat program in recent weeks, a senior official from the Sri Lankan Embassy has said.
The Lankan mission in Riyadh receives around 10 runaway maids a day from the central province. “We have witnessed a remarkable increase in the number of runaway maids following rumors of raids that are spreading around the capital,” the official said.
According to a survey conducted by the Sri Lankan Consulate in Jeddah, most of these runaway maids leave their workplaces within three months of arriving in the Kingdom. The most common complaints voiced by these maids include harassment and nonpayment of wages.
The average contracted salary for Lankan housemaids working for a Saudi household is SR 650 per month. Employers, who hire the runaway maids locally, pay a monthly salary of SR 1,500, which is more attractive than the wage offered by the original sponsor. Some of these cases are settled at the missions in Riyadh and Jeddah through negotiation with the sponsors. The rest of the maids are sent home.
The official explained that the repatriation of maids is streamlined through the Deportation Center after their travel documents are processed. The Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment provides air tickets to stranded housemaids only if they have registered themselves as domestic aides with the bureau. The others, he said, must pay for their own tickets to Colombo.
A Saudi sponsor spends at least SR 15,000 to hire a maid from Colombo, whereas a person who locally hires a runaway maid is willing to pay triple the originally contracted salary since there is no need to pay hiring costs such as visa fees, air fare and agency fees.
Number of Lankan runaway maids swells