09/03/2010, 00.00
SRI LANKA - SAUDI ARABIA
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Colombo activists and religious leaders call for end to abuse of migrants in Saudi Arabia

by Melani Manel Perera
In front of the Saudi Embassy in Colombo hundreds accuse their governments of failing to defend migrant rights. Protests triggered by the brutal story of a domestic worker tortured by her employers in Saudi Arabia who returned home with nails hammered throughout her body.

Colombo (AsiaNews) - Hundreds of human rights activists, religious leaders and local film stars have protested against the torture suffered by Sinhalese migrants in Saudi Arabia for work. On August 30 a crowd of people gathered in front of the Saudi Embassy in Colombo, shouting out slogans against the governments of Rhyad and Colombo, accused of doing nothing against the violation of human rights of migrants.

The protests were triggered by the brutal incident of LP Ariyawathi, a domestic worker of 49, tortured by the Saudi family where she worked. As punishment, employers hammered nails in her hands and legs. Currently the Saudi authorities have denied the fact, accusing the woman of inventing everything for the purposes of extortion.

Ariyawathi worked for five months in a Riyadhi family. On August 21 she returned home telling the family she had been tortured by her employers for her inability to communicate in Arabic with the nails and pins planted in various parts of her body. Doctors at the Kamburupitiya Hospital (south of Sri Lanka) who last week visited the girl, confirmed the 24 nails five inch removed from her body long during an operation that lasted three hours.

In recent days, a Sri Lankan delegation was sent to Saudi Arabia to discuss the situation with Riyadh officials and seek an investigation. Kusuma Chandrakanth, a friend of the woman, told AsiaNews: "The Government Agency for foreign employment simply sends workers outside the country and are not interested in their suffering."

Even Buddhist monk Baddegama Samitha, ,accuses the government of not doing enough for migrants. "Its not enough to send people to other countries to meet the demand for labour. The authorities have a great responsibility in defending the rights of all those who work abroad and send money home. "

Saudi Arabia employs over 1.5 million foreign nationals. Most of them are women from Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Philippines, Nepal. In recent years Human Rights Watch and other human rights groups have denounced the poor condition of workers. They are often victims of abuse, such as torture, unpaid wages and subjected to gruelling work hours without rest.

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