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Monday 3 November 2008 (06 Dhul Qa`dah 1429)

      Lankan maid takes refuge in embassy
      Md. Rasooldeen | Arab News 
      RIYADH: A housemaid has sought refuge in the Sri Lankan Embassy here, 
claiming she has not received her salary for 18 years.

      The maid, who has run away from her employer, came to the mission with 
only SR1,500 in her possession. She was brought there by a Sri Lankan driver 
who had recently come to work for the same employer. The driver told embassy 
officials that he helped the maid because he felt sorry for her.

      "She was not in sound mental health when she arrived at the mission," an 
official from the embassy said, adding that she might have lost her memory 
because of an absence of contacts with her family for a long period.

      "She might have been driven into this mental state by what she suffered 
at her employer's house," he said, adding that the mission does not know 
whether the last house where she worked was that of her original sponsor.

      "Maids are sometimes passed on from house to house according to a 
sponsor's whim," he said.

      The maid, Kawlah Umma Jabeer, is from the Sri Lankan town of Kinya, 
located some 300 km from Colombo. The maid had in her possession a copy of her 
passport, which stated that she arrived in Riyadh in 1990.

      The woman is unmarried and came to the Kingdom at the age of 40.

      The Sri Lankan Embassy has lodged an official complaint with the Riyadh 
governorate seeking an investigation into the matter. Representatives of the 
mission are expected to meet concerned officials at the governorate today to 
discuss the case.

      The embassy official said the governorate has been considerate in dealing 
with such cases. He recalled that a maid - on the instructions of Riyadh Gov. 
Prince Salman - was paid SR59,000 in unpaid salaries for a period of 14 years 
earlier this year.

      Maids mainly run away from Saudi homes due to nonpayment of salaries, 
nonrepatriation on completion of work contracts, verbal or physical harassment, 
overwork and lack of basic facilities.

      Around 80 percent of the 550,000 Sri Lankan workers in the Kingdom are 
domestic helpers. Some 60,000 Sri Lankan maids came to the Kingdom last year, 
while 2,500 maids sought shelter in the country's missions in Riyadh and 
Jeddah. Considering the huge size of the Sri Lankan housemaid population, the 
rates of runaway maids are negligible, an embassy official said.

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