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Maid repatriated after 3-year ordeal

"An Indian maid who was virtually imprisoned for three years by her Saudi sponsor has been repatriated home safely thanks to the timely intervention of the Indian Consulate General in Jeddah."

"Vishwanatha Saraswathie, 40, started working for the household in Jeddah in 2006. She hails from Ooty, one of the popular hill stations in southern India.

“The workplace became a hell when she returned to her sponsor after her biennial vacation,” Consul S.D. Moorthy told Arab News on Monday.

“Saraswathie faced immense problems with the sponsor’s family. She was completely confined to the house and never allowed to see even the daylight.”

He added that she had not been paid for three years and was not allowed to communicate with her friends and family in India by letter or phone.

The married maid has two daughters back home and had come to the Kingdom as her husband is disabled.

According to the consul, she had run away from her sponsor three weeks ago. “Some good Samaritan brought her to the consulate. She had a long tale of woes that involved mistreatment, nonpayment of salaries and long working hours,” Moorthy said, indicating that she had no travel papers and was unable to identify the place where she was working.

“I took her in my car around the streets of Jeddah to locate her sponsor’s house but unfortunately three years of confinement within the four walls of the house had made her alien to the city,” Moorthy said.

“Besides these problems, she was suffering from a range of stress-related diseases.”

She was admitted to hospital and provided medical care, the consul said, thanking the Sentamil Nala Mandram, a social service organization that helped the maid during her medical treatment.

“We gave her a single journey emergency certificate to leave the country and the Tarheel authorities provided the fullest support for her quick repatriation,” Moorthy said, adding that she left Saudi Arabia penniless since the mission could not trace the whereabouts of her employer. The mission could only offer her an air ticket to Mumbai, the official said.

There are some 10,000 Indian housemaids spread out across the Kingdom. Three years ago the Indian government introduced new regulations that stipulated the minimum age for housemaids at 40 and a minimum salary of SR1,500 per month.

However, the consul said that Indian maids are still regularly entering the country through illegal means. From January to July this year, the mission handled around 20 complaints from maids working in western Saudi Arabia."


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