A Sri Lankan maid in Saudi Arabia has been tortured by her employer and even forced into a refrigerator, the Arab News reported.
The Sri Lankan Embassy in Saudi Arabia however refuted reports that the housemaid in the Kingdom was frozen to death inside a refrigerator.
A senior official from the embassy told Arab News that the incident was alleged to have been perpetrated by the Saudi sponsor.
“We summoned the housemaid to the mission with the help of the job agent and the Saudi Embassy,” he said, adding that the maid was in good health, except for some burns on her body.
Nilangederage Dayaratne had come to the Kingdom as a maidservant to a household in the Al-Qassim region. Sources say the maid had complained to her husband in Sri Lanka that her sponsor was torturing her and putting her in a refrigerator with the aim of killing her.
The official said that the maid was admitted for a medical check up at the hospital and the authorities found that she was healthy. She was discharged from the hospital on the same day and was brought to a safe house. The maid had complained that she was tortured over her dispute with her employer.
The diplomat said that the mission is trying to negotiate for an amicable settlement between the employer and the maid, since the maid has only been in the Kingdom for the past two months.
Dilan Perera, minister of foreign employment promotion and welfare of Sri Lanka, said that his ministry is now focusing on the supply of skilled workers to the Kingdom and other countries in the region, stressing a need to move toward a “gradual shift from housemaids to skilled workers.”
Perera said that supplying domestic workers to the foreign job markets after ensuring their security and rights as well as welfare and rehabilitation programs when they return to the island have been among the challenges that are unresolved often.
“The maidservants who come out for foreign employment face problems such harassments, delayed wages, breach of contracts, in the host countries, while their families back home face serious socio-economic problems,” the minister said, adding that the government is unofficially discouraging citizens to take up housemaid jobs abroad, as the country gradually trains nationals for more skilled and dignified professional opportunities.
“We want to offer more skilled and quality manpower to the Kingdom and other regional job markets,” he said.
Perera said that the Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment would assist the companies in the host countries to train the human resources according to their needs.
“We have well established training centers to update the prospective foreign workers with the required skills,” Perera said, adding that we also could supply trainers to help the employers.
“An innovative mechanism is currently being developed in Sri Lanka to implement job-specific, country-specific and company-specific training programs for the citizens, who seek foreign opportunities,” he said.
Perera said: “We are resolving the problems of our migrant manpower and working on improving their welfare system, by introducing education scholarship to the children of Gulf returnees. Work-related complaints such as employee or agent harassment, physical abuse, health challenges and issues of absconding maids have significantly come down at the Lankan missions in the Kingdom.”
As a welfare measure for Lankan foreign workers, Perera said his government is considering allocating a sizable quota for their students to enroll in the new private university, which is underway in Colombo.
“Through this program, we will be able to attract foreign remittances from our nationals and thus help our community members too,” the minister, added.
Regarding complaints from housemaids, he said they are minimal compared to the housemaid population in the Kingdom. Around 80 percent of the island’s workers population in the Kingdom are maidservants. (Colombo Gazette)