Nepal maids from Kuwait being dumped in Riyadh
At least two Nepalese housemaids are left every day at the gates of the Nepalese Embassy in Riyadh. Many of the housemaids, who have legal Kuwaiti residency documents, are brought to the Kingdom on visit visas, made to work for Saudi families and then abandoned or brought to the embassy.
“Some Saudis hire housemaids from their relatives and friends in Kuwait. But such women cannot be sent back to Nepal via Kuwait as it would incur extra expenses, including a SR10,000 fine because they have overstayed their visit visas. The easiest thing to do is to bring them to our embassy, sometimes with their passports and one-way tickets,” said Khadga Prasad Dahal, first secretary at the Nepalese Embassy.
On May 16, the Nepalese Embassy repatriated 16 Nepalese housemaids, six of whom had come from Kuwait. Three of the women were either physically sick or mentally deranged.
There are an estimated 50,000 Nepalese housemaids in Saudi Arabia with 10,000 in Riyadh alone, said Dahal, adding that the maids are illegal as Katmandu has banned Nepalese nationals from working as domestic servants abroad. To get around the ban, Nepalese women, many of them uneducated, are brought to Mumbai where visas are arranged at the Saudi consulate.
“Flying from Mumbai means they are coming here without our knowledge. So it becomes impossible to keep track of them,” said Dahal, adding that Kuwait-based housemaids are brought to the Kingdom without their consent.
He added that since Nepalese women are not trained like women from the Philippines or Sri Lanka, they are unable to perform basic jobs like handling electrical appliances and so make mistakes, something that angers their employers resulting in beatings and torture. The housemaids then either run away or the sponsor tries to get rid of them. Those in Jeddah are dumped near the Sharafia Bridge. Since Nepal does not have a consulate in Jeddah, said Dahal, many Nepalese women go to the Indian Consulate. He said the Nepalese Embassy tries to help such women by finding temporary employment so that they could earn money to buy tickets to Nepal.
Those living in and around Dammam also receive help from the embassy. But for the Nepalese housemaids in the rest of the Kingdom, life can become difficult.
Many women at the shelter are pregnant or physically sick. “We try to expedite such cases on humanitarian grounds,” said Dahal, adding that three pregnant women were repatriated to Nepal in the last 20 months.
“We have no control over our people going to India and getting Saudi visas,” said Hamid Ansari, Nepal’s ambassador to Saudi Arabia.
“Once Saudi Arabia opens it embassy in Katmandu there would be no justification for people to go to India. It would automatically stop all illegal activities.”
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