RIYADH: The Saudi Arabian National Recruitment Committee (SANARCOM) decided Sunday to request the authorities concerned to stop the recruitment of housemaids from Sri Lanka until Colombo agrees to implement the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that was signed between the SANARCOM and the Association of Licensed Foreign Employment Agencies (ALFEA) two months ago in Riyadh.
Following the meeting held in Qassim on Sunday, SANARCOM Chairman Saad Al-Badaah explained that his organisation signed an agreement with ALFEA to reduce recruitment charges from SR8, 500 to SR5,500, and that the government of Sri Lanka has failed to honour the agreement which was to take effect from September this year.
The SANARCOM is the umbrella organisation for Saudi recruiting agencies in the Kingdom. It is a body that chalks out recruitment procedures, particularly for domestic workers.
“We are suggesting the ban based on various reasons that include the issue of the MoU, the bureaucratic attitude of the Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment (SLBFE) and the recent case of Sri Lankan housemaid, Ariyawathi, who was allegedly tortured by a Saudi sponsor,” Al-Badaah said.
He added that Ariyawathi’s case generated adverse publicity against the Kingdom both in and out of Sri Lanka.
The allegations were eventually proved to be baseless, he added. He insisted that the rights and reputation of citizens should be upheld and justice should be done during such disputes.
“We will also take appropriate action against recruiting agencies which have violated the local labour regulations both in and out of the Kingdom.
“We will also lodge a complaint with the Foreign Ministry against some foreign missions in the Kingdom, which directly interfere with citizens on various labour issues,” Al-Badaah said.
Last year, Sri Lanka sent 42,906 domestic helps to the Kingdom and has already sent 19,000 during the first half of this year.
There are some 500,000 Sri Lankan workers in the Kingdom including housemaids. Sri Lanka earns around $1 billion from remittances sent by housemaids in the Kingdom.
L.K. Ruhunuge, additional general manager of the SLBFE, told Arab News from Colombo that the government did not accept the agreement signed between SANARCOM and ALFEA since the country’s attorney general declared the accord null and void since ALFEA is not lawfully authorised to sign international agreements on behalf of the Sri Lankan government.
ALFEA, he said, is an umbrella association with an estimated membership of some 200 out of the 800 recruitment agencies in the island.
“It has no right to enter into such agreement.” He added that SLBFE has no problem with the amount agreed in the MoU, but insisted that ALFEA is not the body authorised to deal with this issue. “We only want our housemaids’ salary to be SR650 per month,” he said.
The SLBFE, which functions under the auspices of Sri Lanka’s Ministry of External Affairs, is a statutory body that oversees recruiting agents as well as the island’s overseas workers.
Referring to Ariyawathi’s case, Ruhunuge described it as an isolated incident that should not have an impact on bilateral trade. (Source: ArabNews.com)