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  • » 12/05/2012, 00.00

    SRI LANKA - SAUDI ARABIA

    Sri Lanka's Church and government hope for Rizana Nafeek's release

    Melani Manel Perera

    The Saudi crown prince announces a pardon for death row inmates as a blessing for the health of his ailing king. The young Muslim woman was sentenced to death in 2007 for allegedly killing an infant. A Catholic nun expresses joy at the news, but urges the government to protect better migrant workers.

    Colombo (AsiaNews) - The Catholic Church and the Sri Lankan government are hopeful that Rizana Nafeek might be freed. The Muslim woman was convicted for killing an infant and sentenced to death in 2007. Recently, Saudi Crown Prince Salman bin Abdul Aziz al Saud announced that he would pardon inmates on death row as a blessing for ailing King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz. His statement has revived hope among those fighting for the young woman's release. The prince is in fact the kingdom's defence minister and first deputy prime minister.

    "The possibility of a pardon is a great consolation for all Sri Lankans, especially her family, who have been asking for her release for years," Sister Rita Janet, of Catholic National Commission for Migrants, told AsiaNews.

    Sister Deepa Fernando, from the Holy Family Sisters, is also confident. However, the "government of Sri Lanka has to assume its responsibilities." According to the nun, the administration of President Mahinda Rajapaksa "has a duty to check who goes abroad to work. If they had done this, minors would not become victims of such situations."

    Originally from a very poor family in Mutur village (Trincomalee District in the Eastern Province), Rizana had come to Saudi Arabia in 2005, when she was only 17, on a false passport, to work as a domestic helper.

    When her employer's child died, she was accused of murder and sentenced to die in 2007 after a phony trial based on a confession written in Arabic she was forced to sign, even though she does not know that language.

    The Sri Lankan government, as well as national and international NGOs, including Caritas, turned to the European Union. They also tried to clarify the situation with the dead child's family.

    Fr George Sigamoney, head of Caritas Sri Lanka, joyfully welcomed the prince's statement; however, he is well aware that "the injustice meted out to vulnerable migrant women is growing day by day as many women migrate to other countries as unskilled labour for domestic work."

    Saudi Arabia is one the main destinations for Sri Lankans seeking unskilled jobs. Usually, migrants are underage and sent off with false papers in order to leave Sri Lanka.

    Often adult women, some with children, are forced to emigrate because they have lost their husbands and do not earn enough money at home to feed their families.

    The lack of training, experience and government assistance makes migrant women very vulnerable to abusive and violent employers.

    In order to put a stop to the problem, Sri Lankan authorities have cancelled contracts with more than 600 foreign employment agencies, mostly in Saudi Arabia.

    About 1.8 million Sri Lankans currently work aboard, 45 per cent women.

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    See also

    10/01/2013 SAUDI ARABIA- SRI LANKA
    Migration flows to Saudi Arabia must be regulated to avoid another Rizana Nafeek
    Source talks to AsiaNews about illegal labour practices involving migrants to Saudi Arabia from Sri Lanka, India and Pakistan. "Exporting" countries fail to protect their migrants. In Rizana Nafeek's case, Sri Lankan authorities failed to provide her with a lawyer during her trial.

    13/12/2010 SRI LANKA - SAUDI ARABIA
    Sri Lanka, Muslims and Catholics together to save the life of Rizana Nafeek
    The girl has been sentenced to death in Saudi Arabia, accused of murdering an infant, son of the woman that Rizana worked for. In three mosques meetings were organized to pray and sign the "Save Rizana” petition. The signatures will be sent to the king of Saudi Arabia, hoping he will grant clemency for the girl. Since 2007, Fr. Sigamony, national director of Caritas Sri Lanka, has been working for the release of Rizana.

    11/05/2012 SRI LANKA
    Sentenced to death in S Arabia in 2007, Rizana Nafeek's life hangs by a thread
    Falsely charge of murder, the young woman has been in jail since she was 17. The European Union is closely monitoring the case. For Saudi authorities, the "case is not yet closed." Sri Lanka is trying to get the victim's family to pardon her.

    06/06/2012 SRI LANKA
    Social activists to Elizabeth II: For Diamond Jubilee, save Rizana Nafeek’s life
    The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) sends a letter to the Queen of England, who is celebrating 60 year reign. Since 2007, the Sri Lankan girl is sentenced to death in Saudi Arabia for the alleged murder of a newborn babay.

    09/07/2011 SRI LANKA
    Sinhalese and Tamil Muslims together for Rizana Nafeek
    The muslim maid was sentenced to death in Saudi Arabia for allegedly killing an infant in 2005. Q protest rally is held outside the Saudi Embassy. Activists say that the child’s death was an accident and blame both countries for the situation.



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