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Friday, 10 September 2010

Saudi Arabia: the mistreatment of foreign maids

"In Saudi Arabia, many Asian and/or African maids work in terrible conditions. Their most fundamental rights are violated: they are held against their will, humiliated, sometimes even tortured. A young Kenyan woman, who has fled her Saudi employers and is now in hiding, told us her story.

The account of a Sri Lankan maid who was tortured by her Saudi employers is far from being an isolated case. Some 1.5 million foreigners work as housemaids in Saudi Arabia. According to the Damman police spokesman, 20,000 of them fled the homes where they were employed after being mistreated."
(She says)... I slept in a tiny, cramped room with a thin, hard mattress on the floor. I had to ask for permission to eat. I worked like crazy, doing all of the housework, from ten in the morning to five or six the next morning non-stop...
I wasn’t allowed to call home for two months. When I finally did, I learned that my father was very ill and had been hospitalised. I asked my employer – to whom I’m not supposed to be allowed to talk to – if he could pay me my salary so that I could return home to see my father. I hadn’t been paid anything so far – my monthly salary was supposed to be of 800 rials [around 160 euros], which is next to nothing here, you can barely afford even the lowest of rents. But he and his wife refused, going so far as to tell me that, even if my father did pass away, it wouldn’t be too serious!
As they have removed her passport the minute she entered the country, she can't leave Saudi Arabia and lives in fear of being found by tthe authorities. She has escaped from her captors, anyway, and 27-year-old Mohammed, a foreign languages' teacher, has protected her since then. He says:
I know at least 25 women that are in the same situation as she is: with no money, no papers, with no way of ever going home. Some end up turning towards prostitution, others manage to find a new job after running away from their first employers. I think it’s disgraceful that the Kenyan embassy isn’t doing anything to stop this from happening.
He has created a Facebook page to raise awareness about this problem.

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