Saturday, 21 May 2011
He plans to tighten emigration regulations of unskilled workers in favor of skilled and professional workers.
“Tighter emigration regulations will be passed to discourage women from leaving Sri Lanka to work overseas as housemaids,” Mr. Perera said. “This plan is to boost opportunities for professional and skilled workers instead.”
His government’s new focus on the skilled sector was part of a plan to change perceptions about the country as well as deal with recurring complaints by housemaids of harassment by employers.
“I’m not saying I’m banning housemaids from migrating, but I will regulate more,” said Mr. Perera, speaking on the sidelines of an employment seminar in Dubai.
There are an estimated of 250,000 Sri Lankans employed in the United Arab Emirates; some 11,285 Sri Lankan housemaids arrived in the UAE in 2010 to work, according to The National.
Mr. Perera is heading a delegation of government and recruitment officials on a five-day visit to the UAE. The team is planning to visit Dammam, Saudi Arabia next week.
“I want to discourage the housemaid category and explore more opportunities in the skilled, semi-skilled and professional category. This is because there are more problems in the housemaid category,” he said.
Indonesia has backed similar plans in the past, according to M. Wahid Supriyadi, the Indonesian ambassador to the UAE.
His comments came after the Indonesian state of West Nusa Tenggara banned recruitment of its residents for work in Saudi Arabia following the high-profile abuse case of Sumiati Binti Salan Mustapa.
The 23-year-old housemaid claimed that her employers burned her with an iron and stabbed and slashed her with scissors during a beating that caused internal bleeding and multiple broken bones. A spokesman for Saudi Arabia’s labour minister said in a statement to The National, that he was sorry about the case, but called it an isolated incident.
“What I would like to recommend is the deployment of more professionals instead of household workers. For instance, a few hundred more Indonesian engineers are needed in the oil and petrochemical industries in Abu Dhabi,” Ambassador Supriyadi said.
He added that there was also a demand for nurses and other medical workers, security guards, waiting staff and chefs in the hospitality sector.
The number of physical abuse cases among Indonesian housemaids who sought shelter at the embassy in Abu Dhabi was “minimal”; the majority complained of unpaid salaries, verbal abuse and unfair working hours, Mr. Supriyadi said.
The Indonesian government has a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the UAE for its skilled, semi-skilled and professional workers, ensuring that their rights and welfare are protected under the labor law. However, there is no such agreement in place to protect housemaids.
(Ikram Al Yacoub, a writer at Al Arabiya, can be reached at: email@example.com)