Rising number of housemaid deaths alarms Sri Lanka


The Sri Lankan government is showing grave concern about the large number of housemaid deaths in the Gulf countries where they come to work as domestic helps in households.

The Sri Lanka Economic Association (SLEA) has given serious attention to a recent report presented in Parliament which revealed that a large number of dead bodies and remains were returned to Sri Lanka from the Gulf States between January and October 2012.

According to information available with the Medical Officer at the Katunayake Airport, about 75 percent of the bodies were of women below thirty years of age; the majority of cases were determined to be deaths due to heart failure and the internal organs in most of the bodies were reported to be missing. This is when the life expectancy at birth of Sri Lankan women is 79 years.

The Sri Lanka Economic Association (SLEA) is a volunteer association, set up in 1985 and incorporated in 2011 by an Act of Parliament. Its objective is to undertake, promote and facilitate studies in the field of economics and to promote understanding, co-operation and friendship with similar associations within and outside Sri Lanka.

According to a senior official from the Sri Lankan Embassy here, an average of one death is reported everyday.

“The cause of death is mainly natural and very few cases are due to road accidents,” the official said. Asked about the dead bodies of Sri Lankans lying in the Kingdom’s mortuaries, he said that there are some 20 bodies awaiting repatriation. However, he added that the mission sends two bodies to Colombo daily to be received by the deceased’s relatives.

An official from the Sri Lankan Consulate in Jeddah said that in the western province, the cases of death among Sri Lankans is minimal. “The consulate gets around four to five cases a month,” he said, adding that the Riyadh Embassy covers a much larger area than the consulate, so there will be more death cases at the embassy than the consulate in Jeddah. There are some 450,000 Sri Lankans living in the Kingdom and the majority of them are female domestic workers. The Sri Lankan community in the Kingdom is the island’s largest concentration among the 1.5 million Sri Lankans in the Middle East.

According to Road Map-2014 presented by the Central Bank, the trade deficit for 2013 is estimated as $8.6 billion.
Nearly 80 percent of this deficit ($6.7 billion) was bridged by foreign expatriate remittances. In addition to this macro impact, employment in the Gulf has helped thousands of poor families to make ends meet.

This is particularly important in the backdrop of weaning employment opportunities for unskilled women labor in Sri Lanka.

Based on these considerations, the SLEA has recommended the following actions which include requesting international agencies that profess the dignity of labor to uphold the cause of human rights, unequivocally protest to the countries that employ Sri Lankan housemaids, issue strict instructions to Sri Lankan missions in the Gulf to be vigilant and ensure Sri Lankan employees’ welfare and safety and take immediate remedial measures to resolve any issue that arises, register all job agencies and take strict action against agencies which are not registered and launch together with job agencies an orientation program for aspiring migrant workers to improve their soft skills, public relations, ethics and awareness of their rights and duties. (Source: Arabnews)