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Sri Lankan Ambassador to Kuwait C.A.H.M. Wijeratne
Sri Lanka sees drop in maid deployment this year Govt eyes deploying more skilled labour

KUWAIT CITY, Feb 10: “We expect to see a drop in the deployment of Sri Lankan housemaids this year after a law has been passed banning Sri Lankan women with minor children from travelling overseas for employment. Moreover, there’s a proposal to increase the age limit of 25 to 30 for women to work abroad, to discourage women from working abroad as our government eyes deploying more skilled labour,” disclosed on Monday Sri Lankan Ambassador to Kuwait C.A.H.M. Wijeratne.

Wijeratne informed the Arab Times that the aforementioned law will be implemented soon and expected to have an impact on the deployment of maids. He explained that the law was passed to reduce juvenile delinquency, prevent child abuse back home and preserve the family as a basic unit in the society. “This has been contested by some groups in court to bar its implementation but this will be implemented any time from now. From the President to the Minister, they want this implemented and they don’t encourage Sri Lankan women leaving home to work abroad as maids. But it’s the people’s choice and it’s a human right to travel,” he explained. Currently, there are 130,000 Sri Lankans in Kuwait and 80,000 of them are employed as domestic workers.

According to the embassy, the monthly salary of maids is now KD 80. Wijeratne outlined the various cases of housemaids that the Sri Lankan embassy in Kuwait handles ranging from non-payment of salaries, physical abuse to sexual harassment. Last year, the embassy through the help of the Kuwait Ministry of Interior repatriated over 4,000 distressed maids who ran to the embassy for assistance. “We receive around 10 to 15 runaway maids everyday but sometimes there are days that more run to the embassy, just like the other day, there were 32 who arrived here, hence, we want them to be repatriated as soon as possible,” he pointed out. Currently, there are over 200 wards staying in the shelter awaiting their repatriation to Sri Lanka. “We usually do the repatriation once in two weeks with the help of Kuwaiti authorities.

The air ticket is not a problem because some travel agencies give cheaper tickets at KD40 or even less. If the maid has no ticket, we have our voluntary fund to pay for the ticket or our government pays for it through the Foreign Employment Bureau and it will be taken from the insurance system paid by the manpower recruitment agencies when deploying workers,” he cited. He added that Kuwait has also been generous in the past and donated air tickets for the wards. “When I presented my credentials, I sounded off to HH the Amir our concerns on the repatriation of the maids and he ordered the donation of 500 tickets.

The Kuwait government gives free tickets occasionally but sometimes it takes time and some of the wards want to go home the soonest and we don’t want to hold them longer in the shelter,” he stressed. Aside from the speedy repatriation, Wijeratne disclosed that the embassy also ensures that the distressed workers get the compensation due them. “The embassy does not retain the services of a lawyer in resolving cases. What we do is we ask the help of our people who work here who are familiar with the people in court.

They can approach the judge or the prosecutor and the case is filed and heard. We only pay them KD 25 or KD 30 unlike the lawyers who charge exorbitant fees like KD 250 for simple filing of a case,” he pointed out. He shared the embassy’s backchannel type of diplomacy to help its constituents. “It’s more effective than hiring the services of a lawyer and then you end up with nothing.

But if you have your own people who know people in the Ministry of Justice and who are familiar with the legal system, then the files are retrieved and cases are filed faster. That’s the beauty of the Kuwait legal system,” he stated. Wijeratne thanked the Kuwait government for its continued assistance to the Sri Lankan nationals in Kuwait especially the distressed maids in the shelter.

He disclosed that doctors from the Kuwait Ministry of Health visited the shelter recently to check on the health conditions of the runaway maids after one maid died of cardiac arrest. “After my visit with the Kuwait Red Crescent Society, Health Ministry and Foreign Ministry, finally our request for a regular medical camp be conducted at the embassy premises was granted.

An eightman team visited us and they were shocked to see the condition of the wards and they agreed to do the medical camp regularly, hopefully once a week,” he stated. Wijeratne vowed that the embassy will help its nationals in any possible way to safeguard their rights and welfare. “With the construction of a new auditorium at the embassy that can accommodate from 700 to 1,000 people, we have lined up various activities this year to celebrate our different festivals aimed at fostering camaraderie among our nationals,” he concluded

By: Michelle Fe Santiago Arab Times Staff

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