Sri Lankan Housemaid Sets Free After 17 Years of ‘Imprisonment’ From a Saudi Employer

A domestic worker from Sri-Lanka, K.G Kusumawati was hired by a Saudi Sponsor to take care of her cattle. For last 15 years, she has worked in a remote area as a shepherd and was disallowed to contact her family from last 2 years. Her sponsor has withheld her salary which amounts to Rs. 3.6 million in arrears.

In a report published by Gulf News, K.G. Kusumawathi was finally able to go home after Saudi and Sri Lankan authorities cooperated to locate her and to ease her travel back home where she arrived on Friday.

This act of slavery disguised as employment was brought to light when Kusumawati’s family filed a complained with Sri-Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment (SLBFE) back home. Subsequently, the complaint was escalated to ministry of labour in Saudi. Finally, with the help of immigration authorities and cooperation by CID, the domestic worker was traced and located.

According to Sri Lanka’s Daily Mirror, K.G. Kusumawathi, a resident of Abanpola in Atawarala went to Saudi Arabia in 2000.

“She has worked in a remote desert area as a shepherd for 15 years and did not get in touch with her family members for the past one and half years,” Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment (SLBFE) Media Secretary Nalin Rajapaksa was quoted as saying.

He added that following a complaint filed by her family to the SLBFE, Foreign Employment and Justice Minister Thalatha Atukorale asked the labour officers at the Saudi embassy “to take steps to get her sent back to Sri Lanka.”

The embassy officials were able to locate Kusumawathi with the assistance of the Saudi immigration authorities and the Criminal Investigation Department (CID), he added.

“Her employer had agreed to pay her Rs3.6 million as salary arrears,” Rajapaksa said.

The amount could be considered as the largest amount recovered as salary arrears paid to a Sri Lankan migrant worker in SLBFE’s history, the report said.

Saudi media reported the case, prompting compassionate reactions among Saudis, who while welcoming the happy ending to a sad story, said that the sponsor should be made to face legal action.

“If the facts are as reported, then the sponsor should be referred to a court of law for depriving a woman from direct contacts with her family,” Tarrad said.

“This is totally against the values cherished by our society and the principles embraced by our community.”

Fahad said that only heartless people would keep a woman away from her family for 17 years.

“She had to pay such a high price just to take care of her sponsor’s cattle. He is such a heartless ignorant and selfish man who should be punished,” he said.

However, one user, said that people and the media should verify all the facts before issuing any judgement.

“I think she had gone along with the idea of staying a long time here,” Amlor said. “I cannot believe that throughout this long period, she did not seriously complain or had her family report her case to the authorities of her country. There is more to the story.”

Clearly, this is illegal and amounts to violation of human rights. Media users have called for initiating legal action against the sponsor. Putting restriction on mobility or freedom to movement is arbitrary.

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Penalising the sponsor will set an example for wrong-doers who abuse their position as a sponsor. Few people supported the sponsor. Many said there is more to the story than it seems. Unless the bottom line is known, painting accusation is unwise.

Source: Gulf News

 

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