RIYADH – Federation of Kerala Associations in Saudi Arabia (Fokasa), an umbrella social organization of 28 groups, has sought a ban on recruitment of Indian housemaids to work in Saudi Arabia.
Fokasa handed over the three-point petition to Vyalar Ravi, Indian Cabinet Minister for Overseas Indian Affairs, here on Friday.
R. Muraleedharan, Fokasa president, said the petition highlighting some of the pressing issues Indians are facing while working in Saudi Arabia was handed over to the minister when he met the community members in Riyadh.
Giving reasons for banning recruitment of Indian housemaids, Muraleedharan said the housemaids are not protected by Saudi labor laws and hence subject to exploitation by employers.
He said other categories of workers exempted from the purview of Saudi labor law are house drivers and other domestic helpers “and are at the mercy of their sponsors. The most exploited among this category of Indian workers are housemaids,” he said.
Fokasa, he said, has underscored the plight of Indian workers entangled in labor disputes with sponsors.
Other issues such as a request for financial assistance to dependents of workers who died in Saudi Arabia and issuance of ID cards to social workers come under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs and as such Fokasa urged the Indian minister to do the needful, Muraleedharan said.
The Fokasa did not include other contentious issues in the petition since the minister’s visit to Saudi Arabia is unofficial and he is not supposed to hold meeting with his Saudi counterpart, he said.
While explaining the plight of housemaids the petition highlights some of the sufferings including physical, mental and sexual harassment, long working hours, workload beyond the capacity of housemaids such as forcing them to work in the houses of sponsor’s friends and/or relatives.
Murleedharan said labor offices or labor courts could not address the grievances of housemaid as they are outside the ambit of Saudi labor laws. “The housemaids are treated as (bonded) slaves, who are frequently sold from one sponsor to another,” he said in the petition.
The petition cites gross violation of labor rights when after years of service the sponsors dump the housemaids at Indian Embassy in Riyadh or drop them at deportation centers merely to avoid payment of salary arrears and other benefits, the petition says. – SG