Sri Lankans Padlocked!
By Ranee Mohamed
We have no food, no toilet facilities and no water,” said one of the 19 Sri Lankans imprisoned in a building in Saudi Arabia.
“We have not had a meal in a long time, except for food given to us by sympathizing Sri Lankans. We have not had a bath and we have no way of attending to our basic needs,” claimed these Sri Lankans who went on to say that they are on the verge of desperation, having to sit on the floor of a room, day and night.
Speaking to The Sunday Leader, the men identified themselves, but said that they did not want their names in the newspaper. “We have told our friends and relatives that we are going abroad for employment. Each one of us have paid between Rs.140,000 and Rs. 150,000 to an agency in Sri Lanka to come to Saudi Arabia. We were promised jobs in the Royal Palace. We were told that we will be the staff of Royalty,” lamented the men.
The Sri Lankans held captive in a building said that they arrived in Saudi Arabia on October 15 and are now held in a camp-like location. “No one can come to see us.
There are uniformed men around and we are not allowed to go out neither is anyone allowed to come in,” they lamented.
“This is a terrible place. We are told that we are being held by the Saudi Development Company and we have no access to our embassy personnel either,” they said.
“However, we have informed the Sri Lankan Mission in Saudi Arabia and they have told us that the Foreign Employment Bureau in Sri Lanka will be notified. We are waiting eagerly to get back home. Please help us to get back home. Five of us are married and we have little children. We have made several promises to them. Now all we want is to get back alive without having to languish in a jail,” said the men who hail from areas such as Ampara, Talawakelle, Batticaloa, Jaffna, and Colombo.
The location they are in, as given by the Sri Lankans is Sumai Building Exit 16, Saudi Development Company.
When The Sunday Leader tried to contact the agency which sent these Sri Lankans to Saudi Arabia, a recording on the telephone said that the number is not in use.
When The Sunday Leader telephoned the Chairman of the Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment (SLBFE), Kingsley Ranawake, he said that he will check on the situation; but thereafter said that he was at an interview with another newspaper.
However, Anura Muthumala, the Labour Counsellor at the Sri Lankan Embassy in Riyadh stated that investigations are being launched into the incident. He went on to state that the SLBFE will also be notified.