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involved in sheltering the illegal maids and hiring them out to Saudi families would be closed down and their licenses withdrawn.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