Saudi agencies want total ban on Lankans

By Leon Berenger

The Saudi Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Kingdom’s National Recruitment Committee have asked their government to impose a total ban on recruitment of workers from Sri Lanka.
The decision was taken by the two bodies at a meeting in Kassam, a suburb of Riyadh.

The Sunday Times reported last week that Saudi Arabia, which imposed a temporary ban on the recruitment of Sri Lankan workers was last Sunday expected to decide whether to continue it.
Association of Licensed Foreign Employment Agencies (ALFEA) Secretary Faizer Mackeen who confirmed the outcome of the meeting in Kassam, told the Sunday Times the two bodies have called upon their government to recruit workers from countries like Cambodia, Vietnam and Nepal to meet any shortfall of labour requirements when recruitment from Sri Lanka is banned.

Foreign Employment Bureau Chairman Kingsley Ranawaka told the Sunday Times “we are yet to receive any official word on the proposed ban.” He said the Government would respond when only officially informed. A spokesman for the Saudi Embassy in Colombo declined to comment. “We cannot say anything,” he said.

At present there are more than 500,000 Sri Lankans employed in Saudi Arabia. Most of them are housemaids. The problem has been compounded by another development. Last year, 43,000 Sri Lankan housemaids took up jobs in Saudi Arabia.

ALFEA officials say 19,000 of them breached their contracts and returned after working only two to three months. This is the latest issue that has caused concern among the two Saudi bodies which made the recommendation to their government. Earlier, the allegation of domestic aide A.K. Ariyawathie who complained her employer injected needles into her body and a dispute between the Bureau and the Saudi National Recruitment Committee over the minimum fee charged as commission from would-be employees had set off the crisis.

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