Saturday, April 28, 2007

Sri Lanka Places Restrictions on Recruitment of Maids

Mohammed Rasooldeen, Arab News


Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama addressing reporters in Riyadh.

RIYADH, 26 April 2007 Sri Lanka has imposed restrictions on the recruitment of housemaids, which includes a total ban on hiring women who have children less than five years of age.

Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama, who wrapped up a three-day visit to the Kingdom, told reporters yesterday that female domestic workers who have children below five would not be sent abroad as housemaids. his is not only because of their discontented life here but it also creates social problems back home,?he said.
Homesickness has been identified as one of the primary causes of labor problems among housemaids working in the Kingdom.  housemaid who came here leaving a five-month-old baby ran away from her workplace because she desperately wanted to see her child,he added.

The Sri Lankan government has initiated programs to look after the families of housemaids, by providing scholarships for their children in government schools, but infants still need to be with their mothers, the minister said, stressing that in future only women who are above 25 years of age would be granted permission for overseas deployment.

Speaking about the problems of runaway housemaids, Bogollagama said this is only a fraction of the housemaid population in the Kingdom. he problems are mainly due to misunderstandings between the employer and their employee, non-payment of wages and ignorance about the cultural environment in the host country,he said.

While stressing on his government stance to blacklist job agents in Colombo that send unskilled women as domestic aides, Bogollagama requested the Saudi National Recruiting Committee to check on local recruiting agents who are behind such nefarious activities.

Saudi Ambassador in Colombo Muhammad Mahmud Al-Ali and Sri Lankan Ambassador A.M.J. Sadiq were present at the press briefing held at the Royal Conference Palace.
Bogollagama said a second Sri Lankan airline would start services to the Kingdom. esides SriLankan Airlines, the government is keen on introducing Mihin Air to the Kingdom to serve the Sri Lankan expatriates here,the minister said, pointing out that the new airline, which began operations early this year, is a government-owned budget airline. e are negotiating to modify our bilateral aviation agreement with the Kingdom to accommodate this new airline,he said.

Mihin Air, which is fully funded by the state treasury, will cater not only to migrant workers but also to the tourism industry as a low cost carrier. his will be a great boon to low-income migrant workers who would like to save money on their travel. It would also provide customers with an opportunity to travel at prices 50 percent cheaper,he said.

The minister described his talks with Saudi officials as successful and said that his government is interested in strengthening political, economic and cultural relations with the Kingdom.

Bogollagama said they had agreed to negotiate and finalize bilateral agreements on avoidance of double taxation, combating terrorism, extradition, prisoner exchange and investment protection. Earlier at a meeting at the Riyadh Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the minister said the country offers an attractive package to foreign investors.

Sri Lanka, an investment hub in Asia, has attracted a large clientele of investors from all parts of the world since the country has abundant natural resources and cost-effective labor for viable projects,he stressed.

He pointed out that the Free Trade Agreement with India would give free access to a larger market in the sub-continent to products manufactured in the island.

Ministry Acts to Stop Problem of Runaway Maids

P.K. Abdul Ghafour, Arab News


JEDDAH, 26 April 2007

The Labor Ministry has taken tough actions to prevent maids from running away from their Saudi sponsors in search of better salaries and facilities. Saudis employing these runaway maids will be fined SR20,000 and banned from recruitment, said Muhammed Al-Dowaish, a legal consultant at the ministry.

He said recruitment offices involved in sheltering the illegal maids and hiring them out to Saudi families would be closed down and their licenses withdrawn.

The maids will be deported and will not be allowed to come back to the Kingdom, Dowaish said, spelling out the new measures taken by the ministry. Runaway maids have become a difficult problem facing Saudi families. Many maids run away from their sponsors as a result of torture, nonpayment of salaries and difficult working conditions.

Employment offered by some recruitment offices and Saudi families will encourage maids to run away from their legal sponsors,?Dowaish said, adding that the new measures would put an end to this negative phenomenon.

f they have any problem with sponsors, maids should approach the police or the labor office or the governorate for a solution,?the official said. hey would not run away if they didn expect somebody to shelter them or provide them jobs,?he added. Last year the ministry announced new regulations for recruiting household workers. Ahmad Al-Zamil, deputy minister for labor affairs, stressed that the ministry would deny the right to employ domestic servants to any household that mistreats its workers in any way and would force employers to pay their dues.

Not all maids who disappear, however, are runaways. A number are regularly kidnapped and forced into prostitution by gangs. The Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice recently raided two apartments in Dammam where two Asian maids had been imprisoned and forced to work as prostitutes.

One of the maids said she was living with her Saudi sponsor and had popped out to get something from a nearby shop when she was kidnapped by a taxi driver who raped her and then sold her to another expatriate for SR7,000,?said a commission member in Dammam.

A Bangladeshi taxi driver was arrested in Riyadh recently in connection with the kidnapping of several maids. Police said the driver had been kidnapping maids and then forcing them into prostitution for a long time. He would tell maids that he could get them better jobs and would ask them to run away from their sponsors. Then he would imprison them in an apartment and charge people SR300 to sleep with them,?said a police officer in Riyadh.

An Indonesian Embassy source said they received about 10 complaints from maids every day. Most of them involve abuse and include severe beatings, suicide, kidnapping, rape, withholding of salary for months and years, sexual harassment and impregnation.

Unfortunately, people here are very cruel to maids. They treat them with suspicion and abuse them in many ways,?he said. The rate of domestic servants fleeing their sponsors in the Kingdom is as high as 70 percent, one report said. When they flee, to find jobs with higher salaries, their sponsors lose large amounts of money which were spent in recruiting them and paying for their visas. People who hire maids illegally say that the recruiting system is too complicated and has too much unnecessary red tape.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Illegal migrants' right to work wins support of public in poll

Illegal migrants' right to work wins support of public in poll
By Colin Brown
Published: 25 April 2007

A campaign for an estimated 500,000 illegal workers in Britain to be given the official right to earn a living would have popular support, according to findings in an opinion poll.

The plight of illegal immigrants who are denied any right to work has been called "modern-day slavery". It is said to be flourishing in Britain while we avert our eyes to the scandal under our noses.

Liam Byrne, the Immigration minister, said mass migration had enriched Britain but left UK society so "unsettled" that the issue could cost Labour the next general election. But an opinion poll commissioned by Strangers into Citizens - a campaign to give employment rights to illegal immigrants -shows that 66 per cent of people in the would accept refused asylum-seekers and those who had overstayed their visas if they worked and paid taxes. The poll was conducted last weekend by ORB with a sample of 1,004 adults across the

"This poll makes clear that just talking tough will not be enough to fob off the UK public on immigration, " said Habib Rahman, chief executive of the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants. "They want the political parties to get real and respond in a way that is workable and fair to migrants who are living as members of our society."

"Strangers into Citizens" is calling for the Government to allow a pathway for long-term illegal workers in this country to earn a living legally. They will hold a rally at Trafalgar Square on Monday 7 May to call for all immigrants who have been in this country for four years to be allowed a work permit for two years. It would become a route to "leave to remain" indefinitely while they work and pay taxes.

The campaign challenges the Home Office policy of stepping up the removal of illegal immigrants, who have either overstayed their visas or been refused asylum.

Mr Byrne is introducing a points-based managed migration system, with tighter border controls and a crackdown on employers who recruit illegal immigrants. Austin Ivereigh, the co-ordinator of the campaign, said: "We are not calling for a general 'amnesty' but a six-year pathway to citizenship for long-term migrants. It is certainly not issuing a 'green light for unprecedented migration'." He said one-off naturalisation programmes had been introduced in Spain, Germany and the US as part of a wider strategy of border enforcement. "It may not stop illegal immigration - that is a matter for border controls - but they do bring thousands out of limbo, recognise realities, clear asylum logjams, bring huge benefits to the state and shrink the underground economy on which people-trafficking and exploitative employers thrive," said Mr Ivereigh.

Ken Livingstone, the Mayor of London, said: "Migrants contribute hugely to the economic, civic and cultural life of London. To have a substantial number of them living here without regular status - because of deep-rooted failings in the immigration system - is deeply damaging to London as well as to them."

The Labour deputy leadership candidate Jon Cruddas said: "We must deal with those who no one wants to talk about - the 500,000 or so who have no status. Regularisation is about providing a solution to the problem everyone knows exist but which everyone runs from."

Jack Dromey, the deputy general secretary of the Transport and General Workers' Union, said the economic and moral case for an "earned amnesty" for migrants was overwhelming. "

'Denis', 32, doctor: 'I would have gone home a long time ago if it was safe'

He is secretive and deeply troubled by the threat of being returned to his native Zimbabwe
Denis - not his real name - will not show his face and insists on anonymity. But the 32-year-old is a qualified doctor. "It is very difficult and it is humiliating, " he said. "I am a professional person, but I am living on handouts from my friends."

He speaks good English and was trained as a doctor before he fled Zimbabwe in 2002 after threats to his life. Since settling in this country he has got a girlfriend, also a Zimbabwean illegal immigrant, and they have a daughter, aged 18 months.

"I am crashing down at a flat," he said. "I am not supposed to be here. We are staying with a friend who has a council flat, but she is not supposed to have us here. She is afraid she will be evicted if they find us." Denis is adamant he will not work illegally. "I want to be a professional doctor. I am afraid of taking any other work that will undermine my career. I am so scared for my life. I would have gone home a long time ago if I felt it was safe. I came to Britain because I just wanted somewhere safe and better to work. I cannot go anywhere else because my documents are with the Home Office."

'Lucas', shop assistant: 'I always try to stay away from trouble'

A young Venezuelan with a big smile and a gentle manner, "Lucas" has been living in the UK for 10 years, first studying English and working part time, and then working full time.

He has done a variety of jobs - as a cleaner, working in a hotel and teaching Spanish on a freelance basis. For the past two years he has worked in a shop, and is well-liked by his colleagues and customers. His employers are not aware of his immigration status. He has a national insurance number and has paid taxes and national insurance contributions in all of his jobs.

He has survived as an undocumented worker by working hard and keeping a low profile. "I am very careful, and always try to stay away from trouble," he says. He avoids the authorities as much as possible - he would be very wary of reporting a crime to the police, and does not have a GP. If he were to fall ill he would go to A&E, where he could be treated anonymously.

He arrived in London in 1998. "I came to the UK on a tourist visa and then enrolled as an English student for two-and-a-half years," he says. When he tried to renew his visa a third time, however, he was told that he had been in the country for too long.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Skilled Filipino Immigrants Stonewalled

Leah Diana
Special to the Sun
Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Re: B.C is busy helping skilled immigrants find right jobs, Feb. 12

Contrary to Minister of Economic Development Colin Hansen's claim about inaccuracies in reporting of his government's programs, it is the minister himself who is making inaccurate statements.

While Hansen claims his government is doing a lot to help skilled immigrants find jobs, many Filipino immigrants (despite being highly educated and skilled) continue to be marginalized and economically segregated into low-paying jobs. Many find the costly and long processes required by professional regulatory bodies as impossible barriers to their recognition and accreditation.

For example, hundreds of Filipino nurses in British Columbia are trapped working under the Live-in Caregiver Program (LCP), because nursing is not given any occupational points under the Canadian immigration system. They are forced to work as private nurses and caregivers for the elderly and sick for minimum wage or below for two years despite a dire nursing shortage in the province.

We met with the minister in 2000 to bring up this issue, but our recommendations have not been implemented.

While we agree that professional regulatory bodies have the responsibility to ensure the public's health and safety, we question the minister's rigid view on English language skills and equivalency standards. Philippine educational institutions are at par with many other countries and Filipino immigrants to Canada are already required to be competent in one of two official languages before they are admitted into Canada.

Hansen should put the money where his mouth is. While he touts increasing budgets for so-called solutions to the problem of professional accreditation, we haven't seen any of that money flowing to community-based organizations such as ours that are helping facilitate the recognition and accreditation of Filipino and other foreign-trained nurses. To date, the Filipino Nurses Support Group has conducted review classes and assisted more than 300 nurses working under the LCP to obtain accreditation devoid of any help from the provincial government.

Without the political will to recognize foreign-trained professionals, the promises of Hansen and other politicians remain empty.

Leah Diana is vice-chair of the Philippine Women Centre of B.C.

Indonesia, Malaysia: Overhaul Labor Agreement on Domestic Workers

Indonesia, Malaysia: Overhaul Labor Agreement on Domestic Workers
Proposed Malaysian Migrants Bill Would Violate Basic Freedoms

(New York, February 21, 2007) – At their meeting this week, Malaysia’s Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi and Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyuno should commit to stronger protections for Indonesian migrants working in Malaysia, Human Rights Watch said today. Abdullah is in Jakarta to receive an Indonesian award for heads of state, the Bintang Republik Indonesia Adipradana.

Approximately 2.5 million migrants work in Malaysia, and the majority are Indonesians working in plantations, construction and domestic service. Gaps in labor laws and punitive immigration policies have left many migrants at risk of abuse and labor exploitation by employers and recruitment agencies.

Malaysia recently announced plans to introduce new legislation that would restrict migrants to their workplace or living quarters. Such measures violate workers’ right to freedom of movement. The resulting isolation would also put them at risk of other abuses, as demonstrated in the case of the approximately 300,000 migrant domestic workers in Malaysia. Many domestic workers already confront restrictions on their movement and communication.

“Instead of improving the situation, Malaysia’s proposed foreign worker bill will make it dramatically worse,” said Nisha Varia, senior researcher on women’s rights in Asia for Human Rights Watch. “It’s shocking that Malaysia is even considering a proposal that would give employers freedom to lock up workers.”

As Human Rights Watch reported in “Help Wanted: Abuses against Female Migrant Domestic Workers in Indonesia and Malaysia,” Indonesian domestic workers in Malaysia often work grueling 16 to 18 hour days, seven days a week, and earn less than 25 US cents per hour. Some suffer physical or sexual abuse. These workers are excluded from key protections in Malaysia’s main labor laws, and nongovernmental organizations and the Indonesian mission in Malaysia have received thousands of complaints from domestic workers in recent years.

In Indonesia, labor agents often subject prospective workers to extortion, discriminatory hiring processes, and months-long confinement in overcrowded training centers. In Malaysia, some labor agents turn a deaf ear to women’s complaints about abusive treatment and pleas to return home.

The two countries signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in May 2006 to regulate migration of domestic workers. Positive measures included the introduction of a standard contract and protections against cutting workers’ salaries to repay fees borne by the employer. However, it allows employers to keep workers’ passports, prohibits workers from marrying, and fails to introduce clear standards on a minimum wage, a weekly day off, or monitoring mechanisms for labor agencies.

“While creating the MOU was a step in the right direction, both Indonesia and Malaysia continue to drag their feet in guaranteeing the most important protections for these women,” said Varia. “Domestic workers have to rely on the whim of employers rather than the rule of law for decent working conditions.”

Human Rights Watch said that Indonesia and Malaysia should reform the MOU to, at a minimum, include:

· A commitment to pursue legislative changes to extend equal protection under Malaysia’s labor laws to domestic workers, specifically Section XII of the Employment Act of 1955 and the Workmen’s Compensation Act of 1952.
· The right of workers to hold their own passports. When employers or agents hold workers’ passports, this form of control makes it difficult for workers to escape abusive conditions or to negotiate better working conditions and full payment of their wages.
· A standard contract that ensures minimum labor protections, including: a 24-hour rest period per week; a fair minimum wage; a limitation on working hours per week; benefits; and safe working conditions.

· The creation of clear mechanisms to provide timely remedies for migrant domestic workers in cases of abuse, and to outline sanctions for employers and labor agents who commit these abuses. Migrant domestic workers with pending criminal cases or labor complaints should be allowed to work while waiting for their cases to be concluded.

· Stronger regulations governing recruitment agencies, with clear mechanisms to monitor and enforce these standards. Issues such as agency fees, standard contracts, provision of accurate information, and conditions of training centers should be addressed.
· Protection of workers’ ability to form associations and unions.
“Migration benefits both countries tremendously – by providing important services to Malaysia and needed income to Indonesian workers,” said Varia. “But, despite a long history of large migration flows, Malaysia and Indonesia have lagged behind other countries in ensuring basic protections for migrant workers.”

To view the July 2004 Human Rights Watch report “Help Wanted: Abuses against Female Migrant Domestic Workers in Indonesia and Malaysia” in English, please visit:
To view the report in Indonesian, please visit:
To listen to broadcast-quality audio commentary by Nisha Varia, senior researcher on women’s rights in Asia for Human Rights Watch, on abuse against domestic workers, please visit:

For more information, please contact:
In New York, Nisha Varia: +1-917-617-1041
In London, Brad Adams: +44-20-7713-2767

Monday, April 09, 2007

The STRIVE ACT is Corporate Designed Immigration Reform

By Javier Rodriguez April 4, 2007

The debate in the nation on immigration reform is definitely on and the cards are once again stacked. The Gutierrez-Flake STRIVE ACT of 2007 is a corporate monster most of the way. It doesn't come close to meeting the human rights standards set forth by the international community for the more than 200 million migrants in the planet who, by designs of corporate globalization and its rising capitalist transnational class, have been forced to leave their home countries in search of a new life.

On the contrary the new STRIVE ACT, like last year�s failed Sensenbrenner-HR4437 and Hegel-Martinez S2611, will criminalize immigrants, allow enforcement of immigration law by police agencies, calls for more extreme border enforcement, calls for building 20 more detention centers for immigrants, will erode human rights for future deportees and future immigrants, it will impose an employer verification program, it will delay legalization for the 13 million immigrants already here for many years and not surprisingly it does not set realistic standards to resolve the immigration issue period.

Overall, if approved, it will further set back the struggle for immigrant empowerment, make present and future immigrant workers more vulnerable to exploitation and drive them further underground.

The international criteria for immigrants set in 1987?, says migrants, within three years of living in the host country, have earned their right to legalize their status. By then, they have established roots in their adopted communities, creating family, children, culture, education, business and religion.

This is a sounder humane approach to a real earned right to legalization, to be united with their families and to the stabilization of their lives.

In 1986, through the IRCA Immigration Reform Act, several million urban and farm workers, undocumented immigrants, regularized their status through a radically different set of standards. A one year wait for their permanent residency and five more for citizenship and the right to vote without having to leave the country.

The farm worker clause was even more humane with a requirement of only three months of farm work in the previous two years to qualify. It set forth a fee of only $150.00 per applicant. That�s it. It was a family oriented law though far from perfect.

NOW COMPARE. By Cong. Luis Gutierrez own words, under the STRIVE ACT, the legalization part will not be implemented for two years until Congress confirms that the security border enforcement measures of the new law are in place, and then, only then will the legalization process begins.

Then after, the first of two three year permits for non immigrant status will be issued with the right to a social security, a drivers license and leave and return to the country. After the sixth year the immigrant will have the right to solicit permanent residency.

But instead of an automatic �Green Card� into the hands of the 13 million immigrants, all applicants will be placed in the back of the line for another 5 to 10 years wait, until the applications of 3 million plus potential immigrants now in process, which the STRIVE Bill does not address, are resolved.

It does not stop there. An added five year wait to qualify for citizenship and the right to vote, which means, approximately a total 18 to 21 years to exert full earned constitutional rights which all Americans now enjoy under the constitution.

Is this a corporate panacea or not?The proposed house bill also establishes a quota for 450,000 yearly Conditional Workers, a euphemism for the old Guest Workers Program. Conditional Workers will have the right to: two three year working permits with the right to change jobs, to organize, bring their families and children with the right to school, to a drivers license, a social security and lastly, with an existing good moral conduct and no criminal background, the right to legalize. Seductive isn�t it.

But like their 13 million immigrant counterparts already in the US, which hypothetically speaking, will be waiting in line for years for the �coveted Green Card� this sector will be highly vulnerable to small and large corporate business misconduct. Admittedly though, on par, the future undocumented sector will be several notches more exploitable.

According to leaks emanating from the Capital in the last two weeks, the Kennedy-McCain Senate proposal will use the same framework of S2611 which died last year. If so, for certain the conciliation process between the House and Senate will be a water down process for the Fable-Gutierrez Bill.

For the immigrant rights movement and allies the central question is �What is to be Done�? Already at the gate in tacit support of this concept is a powerful conglomerate of the most active wing of labor, big business, the Latino establishment, Democrats and Republicans, the church hierarchy, the Mexican and Central American governments and the moderate wing of the immigrant rights movement. And it is well financed with a war chest of $4 million dollars.

The accomplishments of the 2006 mass immigrant struggle are historic. Most notable was energizing the electorate and along with the antiwar sentiment changing the correlation of forces in Congress against the extreme right.

Without a doubt President George W. Bush and the Republicans are in a weaker position although his shock troops have launched a near fascist campaign against the country�s undocumented creating havoc and terror.

At this point, the correlation of forces is absolutely not favorable except that the country�s progressive forces and allies move from traditional lobbying towards mass mobilization in an attempt to gain the upper hand and influence the national debate for a more inclusive pro worker immigration reform.

The activists response to the governments ICE raids and deportations campaign has been toe to toe and it appears, has set the conditions for another round of mega mass mobilizations. We shall see if the people respond accordingly again on May 1st International Workers Day in defense of their dignity and humanity. The challenge is as historic as in 2006.

Javier Rodriguez is the media and political strategist for the March 25 Coalition and a co-founder of the May 1st National Movement. 323-702-6397