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Fighting Misery.

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Sri Lanka is to reduce the number of maids it sends to work in the Gulf, a labour official has said, citing increased complaints of abuse by female workers."We want to reduce the number of women migrant workers mainly because of complaints we received from some in Middle East countries," Kingsley Ranawaka, the chairman of Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment said.Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait and the UAE are currently the main markets for more than 700,000 Sri Lankan maids.Saudi Arabia was recently cited by US organisation Human Rights Watch for not doing enough to curb serious abuses faced by domestic staff in their country.The Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment (SLBFE) said it had received more than 3,400 complaints from female workers this year.The bureau said it received complaints for 577 cases of breach of contract and 479 of harassments in the first half of this year, including cases of sexual abuse and physical violence.The Sri Lankan Consul General in Dubai told 7DAYS that there were currently 200,000 Sri Lankans working in the UAE with 60 per cent of them employed as maids.But Wasantha Senanayake said that, unlike the situation identified in Saudi Arabia, there is not a major abuse problem."The Consulate receives at least two complaints a month from maids, mainly related to non-payment of salaries. Cases of physical abuse are less. Sometimes we get cases related to sexual abuse which we take up with the police and they solve it," he said.

"The Sri Lankan government has fixed a minimum wage of dhs830 per month for all the maids working in this country. Starting from August 15, insurance cover has been made a must for the maids," Senanayake added yesterday.Despite the increased complaints of abuse and Ranawaka's comments yesterday, around 100,000 Sri Lankan women still make their way to the Gulf every year to work as domestic help.

Sri Lanka received more than $2.5 billion from workers' remittances last year, the main foreign exchange earner after export earnings from garments. The country's $27 billion economy has been badly hit by a 25-year civil war.

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Publication:7 Days (Dubai, United Arab Emirates)
Date:Jul 31, 2008
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