Sunday 29 August 2010

Saudi employers Ramadan gift to Sri Lankan maid: 13 nails and 5 needles

Doctors extract nails stuck into Sri Lankan maid

Thirteen nails and five needles removed from woman who says they were hammered into her by Saudi employers

Doctors have removed 13 nails and five needles from a Sri Lankan maid who said her employers in Saudi Arabia had hammered them into her.

LG Ariyawathi, who returned home from Saudi Arabia on Saturday and was hospitalised in severe pain, said the family she worked for had punished her by heating the nails and needles and sticking them into her.

X-rays showed she had 24 nails and needles in her body, said Dr Keerthi Satharasinghe, of Kamburupitiya hospital. The nails ranged in length from 2.5 to 5cm (one to two inches), and the needles were about 2.5cm. They were removed from Ariyawathi's legs and forehead.

"The surgery is successful and she is recovering now," Satharasinghe said after a three-hour procedure. He said six more needles in her hands could not be removed because the operation might damage her nerves and arteries, but they would not be harmful to her.

Ariyawathi, 49, has described the abuse meted out by her employers. "They did not allow me even to rest. The woman at the house had heated the nails and then the man inserted them into my body," she was quoted as saying by the Lakbima newspaper.

She said she went to Saudi Arabia in March and was paid only two months' salary, with her employer withholding the rest to buy an air ticket to send her home.

About 1.5 million Sri Lankans work abroad, many as maids or drivers, to earn more than they can in their own country. Nearly 400,000 work in Saudi Arabia.

Sri Lanka's foreign employment bureau said Ariyawathi had been too afraid to complain to Saudi authorities, fearing that her employers might not let her return home. The deputy minister of economic development, Lakshman Yapa Abeywardena, said the government would report the matter to the Saudi government and provide her with compensation.

Saudi officials did not respond to requests for comment. Nimal Ranawaka, at the Sri Lankan embassy in Riyadh, said the embassy had requested a meeting with Saudi officials. "We informed Saudi authorities. They have to take action against the employer," Ranawaka said.


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