There are about 12 lakhs(1.2 mil.) of Sri Lankans employed in the Gulf countries. Further, there are about 300,000 who have migrated through unofficial channels. The remittance received from migrant workers for the year 1998 is about 65 billion rupees. The garment export earning is 82 billion but half of this is used to import the raw materials required by the garment industry. Hence the earning of migrant workers has significance to the economy of Sri Lanka.
These workers who earn such a large amount of foreign exchange have to face untold hardship and misery in these countries. According to information available from the Sri Lanka Foreign Employment Bureau(SLFEB), 102 workers have died while working in the Middle East during the year 1998. A similar number has died in the previous year. The SLFEB had received 8821 complaints of harassments. Of this 5518 were received from Kuwait, 2370 from United Arab Emirates and 2061 from Lebanon.
It is reported that there are many women imprisoned in , UAE and . Around 250 women imprisoned were brought back to . The problems faced by men and women working in the Gulf countries are numerous. The most common complaint is cheating by recruitment agencies. The recruitment agencies charge an amount that is deducted from the earnings. The employers do not pay most of the women workers' wages. Further, these girls are not told that they have to work for households at times comprising about 30 members and in palace like houses. The workload that migrant workers have to attend for a day is unbearable.
This situation gives rise to conflicts and results in violence where they are beaten up and harassed for non-performance of duties. Most of the workers interviewed have told us that they do not receive enough food. One girl who worked in Saudi said, "I made five patties. I am not allowed to eat snacks. The child left one on the plate. I was hungry. So I ate this patty. I told the lady that I threw the other. But the child said I was lying. I was beaten and was starved for one day." This is only one such story. We were told that while maids prepare large quantities of food for the household, they were allowed only one roti and water. The day begins very early and they work almost till midnight.
Migrant women workers are beaten and at times hot water or some liquids are thrown at them. Such incidents leave scars on them. Those who try to escape such households become doubly vulnerable if caught by the household or the police. They would be arrested for not possessing documents hence is illegal. Even if they can trace the household the owner would refuse to give the passport back till the contract period is over. One of the main concerns has been the fact that the migrants have to hand over their passport and other documents to the employer which makes them more insecure.
Often the men in the house expect the maids to take special care of them, this activity can begin in an indirect manner leading up to force as explained to us by many. A very young girl told us that the man who was old requested her to put some oil on the head as he had a headache.
She had volunteered as she found the situation not different to her own home when an uncle would seek her assistance in this manner. But after three days the man locked the door and raped her. She continued to stay on, as the woman in the house was a good sort who had her own life. In some houses while men make these advances women abuse them and ill-treat them for such incidents.Read the rest: http://www.imadr.org/project/srilanka/srihome.html