The story of migrant worker deaths
By Nalaka Nonis
Two hundred and forty one deaths of Sri Lankan workers who had been working abroad have been reported from January 1 to August 31 this year, Foreign Employment Bureau sources told The Sunday Times.

This is an increase of more than 50 percent, when compared to last year's figures of deaths for the same period, which stood at 160. According to the sources the highest number of deaths had been reported during July this year, the figure being 130.

The deaths have been due to natural causes, suicide, homicide, road accidents and other accidents such as burn cases and falls from heights. The deaths have been reported from Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Lebanon, Kuwait, Jordan , Qatar as well as from Italy, Korea and Hong Kong. The most number of deaths have been in Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Lebanon.

The Foreign Employment Bureau claims it had paid Rs. 850,000 as funeral expenses to the families of those who had died abroad this year.

Spotlight on children of women prisoners
By Sarath Chinthaka
With Prisons authorities looking for ways to lessen the overcrowding of prisons, the question of children who languish in jail, as their mothers are serving a prison term, is receiving attention.

Whether children become victims of circumstances when their parents have to serve a prison sentence is another issue which crops up, with children being forced to accompany their mothers, charged for prostitution, drug trafficking or murder, to prison.

At the Welikada prison there are children in the age group of two to five, languishing in jail along with their mothers. What the children get usually as meals is a portion from their mother's plate.

On reaching the age of five, children are usually referred to a place like the Salvation Army, on a court ruling, for their education where they remain till the completion of their mother's prison term.

Most of the basic needs of the children including clothes, milk or nutritious meals are not regularly received by them and very often they have to depend on well-wishers or other donors, according to the Chief Jailor of the women's unit, Kumari Ratnaweera.
She said the children of prisoners who are here as well as those not here, all need care and compassion.The prison Montessori engages a teacher from the Overseas International School on weekdays.

Some mothers, mostly from the low income groups, neglect their kids here and their way of life is hardly an example to their children. In some cases the woman had ended up in jail because her brother, the real offender, had avoided arrest and she had been taken in his stead for having signed as surety.

Most of the women had been jailed for non-payment of fines ranging from Rs. 2000 to Rs. 3000, compelling their children to live in jail, which is a crime by itself. Some of the offenders have been released as the Prisons Commissioner General Rumy Marzook and his wife had paid their fines.

'The children here have no basic facilities like soap, bedspreads, pillow cases, toys or medicine. They need sweets and fruits and there must be social institutions that can come to their aid', Mr. Marzook said.

He said that he was making arrangements to supply books and other needs to educate the women prisoners and teach them cake making, painting and cookery, besides providing information on HIV and basic health care through seminars.

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