Let's bring them home!
Two months ago on May 15, a visit to the Consulate in Dubai found 40
maids at the Safeway House where runaway maids are kept till they get
their passports from respective employers, to return to Sri Lanka.
Forty maids waiting to return home
Some of these maids have been there for seven months in a small room
called the Safeway House waiting for the return of their passports. All
these maids had one appeal to make to the Sri Lankan Government.
"Please tell the Government to get us back home. We plead to the
President to do something immediately and get us back home.
The local agents have our passports and the consulate here is
powerless to act quickly so we beg with the Government to issue
temporary documents so we can go home to our families," pleaded 40 maids
from the outdoor kitchen area where all these women flock together for
their meals. The kitchen is a small open area with a gas cooker and wash
At the time of the visit in mid May dry heat was just setting in, and
July is the height of summer where it is considered even unhealthy to
step outside and it is in these conditions that these 40 women find
themselves incarcerated in a small room called the Safeway House.
Most of these women who have already suffered at the hands of the
agents and employers now find themselves cooped up in a chicken pen
dreading the heat, and facing endless months of nothingness...and
Their daily routine is as follows:
Mornings- waiting anxiously for news, any news related to their case;
Afternoon- they talk of their families who are left without money, now
that the breadwinners have stopped earning; Night- they spend with dread
on the floor of the cultural hall, dreaming of day they can come home to
Maids tell their stories;
Deepthika Liyanage, 24 years old-
Deepthika has been in this Safeway House for 7 months before the
consulate in Dubai sorted her case. Deepthika was leaving on the day of
the interview and shared her story with us.
This is Deepthika's story:
"This is not my first experience working as a maid overseas. I was in
Lebanon and Oman and able to speak Arabic and Hindi. So I don't have a
problem speaking with, or understanding what my employers ask of me.
"I only paid Rs. 1,500 and the rest was covered by the employers.
After two weeks with this Emirati family I was asked to cook for the
extended family as well totalling up to 25 people. I woke up at 4 A.M
and went to sleep at 1 A.M in the morning. When I complained she hit me
with a spoon and it got more physical from there.
"I ran way to the police station where the agent came and got me.
They beat me up till I bruised and said they will put me in a body bag
if I try to run away. I was locked up in a room with 2 other Pilipino
girls for 3 days and given a glass of milk a day.
During the toilet break I pushed passed the female agent and ran to
the highway and kept running till a taxi stopped and got me to the
I have been going crazy for 7 months in this Safeway House and am
being finally released. Last I heard from my family my second husband
had disappeared with my two girls, so now I have to go home and find
them. The consulate sat on my case for 7 months; I plead for my sisters
and say that their cases be heard quickly and not take 7 months like
2) Fathima Rihan, 20 years of age came from Galle to Dubai to work as
a housemaid. Fathima had been in the Safeway house for one month with no
news about her case.
Fathima came to Dubai through an agent in order to find money for her
ailing parents. "I came to work for one family but they asked me to work
for the daughter-in-law as well.
The daughter-in-law was pregnant and began hitting me from the first
day. She woke me up at 4 am to start work and wouldn't give me food at
the end of work. Her mother took pity on me and gave me food when she
could. When I couldn't take it anymore I went to the police who called
The agents promised they will put me in a better house and took me to
a second house and things were the same there.
In the second house I worked for two weeks with daily abuse, with no
water or food and one day the young wife burnt my arm in two places,
that day I ran away to the consulate.
Now things are worse for me because I have been here for one month
and I have not been told anything about my case.
No news whatsoever, whether they have contacted my agents or not. I
wait everyday for news and my parents must be helpless without my
support. A month has gone by with nothing happening. It's maddening to
go on like this and I don't know for how many more months I can go on
The supervisor of the women said it's a very high number for a
Safeway House and finding it difficult to accommodate them.
These women who have suffered mentally and physically are now having
to put up with the worse kind of fear- the fear of the unknown.
When they will be out is anybody's guess; will it be one month? Or if
lucky enough three? But 7 months of nothingness is a punishment no one
should have to endure.
Thus, now we turn to officials and ask -how long before these 40
pleas begin to attract enough attention in order to stimulate action?