Lanka to change migrant worker regulations

Sri Lanka’s government is mulling a range of changes for its female migrant workers to the Middle East after a local housemaid was beheaded in Saudi Arabia, officials said here on Monday.

Media Minister Keheliya Rambukwella said that discussions were ongoing to make a range of changes in the services that Sri Lankan migrant workers will be used for when employed in the Middle East.

“We are planning to hold discussions with Saudi officials on how Sri Lankan women will be employed in that country. It will be according to the legal frameworks of both countries,” he said.

Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Foreign Employment is spearheading the discussions that aim to exclude childcare from the duty list of Sri Lankan housemaids employed overseas. They are also concentrating on increasing the age of workers from 21 to 25 years.

Foreign Employment Bureau Chairman Amal Senadhilankara was quoted in the local media as saying that these steps are being taken to protect women seeking employment overseas.

The steps came after the Sri Lankan government was severely criticised for sending an under-aged woman as a housemaid to Saudi Arabia. She was convicted of chocking her employer’s baby to death and was imprisoned in 2005.

Rizana Nafeek was handed the death sentence by a Saudi Court and despite her denying the charges was executed two weeks ago after being in prison for seven years.

She was 17 at the time of the crime, making her a minor and therefore not eligible for capital punishment according to international law.

This has provoked women’s rights activists to lobby for the government to end sending women to Saudi Arabia. A demand that the government has dodged so far.

The island has nearly a million citizens working in the Middle East, most of them as housemaids. The government is heavily dependent on the remittances with the 2012 figure expected to be around 6 billion U.S. dollars. (Xinhua)