Runaway domestics out to cash in on Ramadan

Expatriate domestic workers gather outside a Labor office in Riyadh to legalize their status. Thousands of runaways maids reportedly remain in the Kingdom.

Expatriate domestic workers gather outside a Labor office in Riyadh to legalize their status. Thousands of runaways maids reportedly remain in the Kingdom.

There has been a dramatic rise in the number of runaway domestics over the past month because employers are desperate for help during Ramadan, according to the Passports Department.

Lt. Ahmad Al-Luhaidan, spokesman of the department, said 6,524 male and female workers across the Kingdom ran away from their employers last month, which was 217 cases a day on average.

Security officials believe that organized gangs are behind this large number of runaway workers, probably aided by citizens, expatriates and some embassies.

These gangs convince maids to run away with the promise of up to SR4,000 a month, compared to the SR1,800 they earn on average at other times of the year.

Several recruiting firms have dismissed allegations that they are aiding these workers. They recently called on government to introduce tough laws to punish these workers. They also claimed that organized groups, including Saudis and foreigners, are helping these runaway workers.

Dawlat Badawood, the owner of a recruitment firm, said citizens are also responsible for this situation because they hire these workers and pay them up to SR3,000 a month.

She said the main reason for this problem is that there is so little supply from labor exporting countries.

“The Ministry of Labor has not yet signed agreements with these countries, so supply is short while demand is very high.”

She said citizens pay these workers what they want because they need help in Ramadan.

“Now that the security campaigns have stopped, things have gotten worse than ever. The state has lost credibility in its efforts to take a stand and punish violators,” she said.

She said the authorities should interrogate these workers to determine who is helping them. “They are actually trafficking human beings, this is a big crime in itself,” she said.

Badawood said agreements signed by the Saudi government and labor-exporting countries should include clauses that deny workers any rights if they run away from their sponsors before the end of their contracts.

She urged the GCC countries to ban runaway workers from entering any member state for five consecutive years.

She said that a recruitment firm has to find a new maid for an employer if she runs away during the first three months of the contract. “When the first three months have ended, the firm is not beholden to either the employer or employee,” said Badawood.

 

 

 

 



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