Number of runaway maids mounts as Ramadan approaches
A total of 5,179 domestic workers ran away from their sponsors in the six months from November 2013 to April 2014, according to the Passport Department in the Eastern Province.
Sources said most maids tend to run away just before Ramadan because that’s when there is the most demand for household workers.
Brig. Gen. Malla Marzouq Al-Otaibi, spokesman for the Eastern Province Passport Department, said 1,543 maids ran away in November, 729 in December, 926 in January, 801 in February, 523 in March and 657 in April.
An earlier survey by the Maid Welfare Center found that about 80 to 120 maids run away from their sponsors every day, with most from Riyadh followed by Makkah, Madinah and the Eastern Province.
Khalid Al-Fakhiri, legal adviser and secretary-general of the National Society for Human Rights (NSHR), said there are few substantial complaints from domestic workers. “Crimes which have been committed by some domestic workers recently cannot be justified. Killing, burning and poisoning children cannot be justified under any circumstances,” he said.
Al-Fakhiri said no one has forced maids to come to Saudi Arabia. Citizens incur huge losses when maids run away, he said. Maids are lured away from their sponsors by fellow nationals thus violating their contracts, he said.
However, cases of domestic workers committing crimes are isolated instances. “We can’t say that these crimes have become a phenomenon, and we can’t accuse everyone from a certain country of being criminal because of isolated cases,” he said.
Al-Fakhiri criticized the media for sensationalizing some cases.
He said there are laws in place in this country that deal with the rights and obligations of both sponsors and their workers, including the manner in which recruitment takes place in workers’ home countries. Any complaints should be reported to the labor authorities, which would deal with grievances based on the country’s laws.
He said attempts should be made to educate foreign recruitment firms about the laws of the Kingdom. In addition, domestic workers must be given the telephone numbers of their embassies and the NSHR.
There have been several high profile cases over the past two weeks of maids allegedly assaulting sponsors and their families. This includes the alleged killing of an 11-year-old boy by two maids, from Sri Lanka and Indonesia.
It is alleged that the child’s mother found him in a garbage bag with several stab wounds to the neck and heart. She had been looking for him after not finding him in his bedroom that morning.
He had been scheduled to write part of his final examinations that day. His bloodied clothes were allegedly found with two knives on the roof of the house.