Hi-tech measures to stop job swindles in the Middle East


Sri Lankans seeking jobs in the Middle East will now face electronic fingerprinting and biometric scanning prior to departure to crack down on rampant fraud and other irregularities in the recruitment trade, a senior official said yesterday.
Scanning devices would be installed at the departure and arrival areas of the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) and at all Sri Lankan diplomatic missions in the Middle Eastern countries where there were large numbers of Sri Lankan workers, Sri Lanka Foreign Employment Bureau (SLFEB) Chairman Amal Senadhilankara said.

He said the new scheme would be enforced from September 1 and that stake holders in the foreign employment industry, particularly recruiting agents had already been informed.

“This screening is necessary because of the growing number of complaints of fraud and other irregularities such as workers flouting
their contracts and getting involved in crime and other illegal activities in the host country,” he said. Mr. Senadhilankara warned the offenders would be blacklisted and prevented from getting overseas jobs again.

The chairman said thousands of workers, mainly female domestics, were known to have broken their contracts with their employers and later sought refuge in Lankan diplomatic missions.This had led to additional expenses to look after them and send them back and it has become a burden on the taxpayer in the country.

“While there are some genuine cases of harassment by certain errant employers, most of those running away from their work are those who were seeking a higher pay elsewhere and they were being helped by a well-organised network, involving Sri Lankans and Arabs,” Mr. Senadhilankara said.

He said such malpractice was unfair by the Arab sponsor who had to spend nearly half a million rupees or even more for a Lankan domestic and when this worker ran away it projected a bad image of Sri Lanka.

He said most of the errant workers were known to have been recruited by so-called sub-agents with zero liabilities since they were not registered with the SLFEB or any other authority and therefore had a free run.“All this will change soon and these sub agents will be streamlined and a mechanism set up to monitor their activities.

This will be done together with other stake holders in the industry,” he said.Meanwhile, legitimate operators in the industry welcomed the new measures while echoing the same concerns of the SLFEB chief.Faizer Mackeen of the Association for Licensed Foreign Employment Agencies (ALFEA) said there was a ‘mafia’ operating both in Sri Lanka and Middle Eastern countries where they swindle millions of rupees from unsuspecting Arab sponsors.

He said these operatives approach women and offer them something between Rs.100,000 and 150,000 for jobs as domestics in an Arab household for three months.Thereafter the domestic worker is advised to dump the employer and make contact with another operative who in turn would find an illegal job at another household for a higher pay, he said.

The runaway maid would then turn up at the Sri Lankan mission and seek an exit pass to Colombo since the passport was in the possession of the original employer.

“At the end of the day the sponsor is taken to the cleaners. This should not be the case because it hurts the industry as more and more prospective employers lose faith in the Sri Lankan market and therefore the new screening scheme is most welcome,” Mr. Mackeen said.
He said the biggest culprit in this fraud was the sub-agent and the sooner they were roped in, the better it would be for the industry.


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