Sri Lankan maid suffers 17 years’ slavery in Saudi house

February 19th, 2011 - 9:00 pm ICT by IANS  

Riyadh, Feb 19 (IANS) A Sri Lankan maid, who was made to serve virtually as a slave by her Saudi sponsor for 17 years, has been rescued by officials of the Sri Lankan embassy in Saudi Arabia.Kusuma Nandini, 56, who had arrived in Riyadh in 1994, was kept as a slave at her sponsor’s home. She was not paid salary even once during the years of her enforced imprisonment at her employer’s house and was forbidden from communicating with her relatives in Sri Lanka, Arab News quoted Sunil Wijesinghe, labour welfare officer at the Sri Lankan embassy, as saying.

Nandini was kept at one home for 15 years and then transferred to the home of her sponsor’s brother.

At one point of time, she thought she would be permanently imprisoned in the house, Nandini said. “I did not see sunlight during the past 17 years since no one took me out.”

At her employer’s brother’s house she was given a salary for two years, the official said.

A traumatised Nandini could not speak her native tongue when she was rescued and “behaved like a robot”. She had even forgotten her family members, said Wijesinghe.

“After meeting other Sri Lankans at the embassy, the maid began remembering things and started picking up her native language,” he added.

The Sri Lankan embassy learned about Nandini’s plight after her 25-year-old daughter, who lives in Kalutara, 40 km from Colombo, informed the foreign ministry that her family had not been in contact with her mother for 17 years.

The officials were able to track her down and bring her to the embassy.

Nandini, who came to Saudi Arabia to earn money to pay for her children’s education, said: “I came to Riyadh when my eldest daughter was eight years old. Now she is 25. My son was six years at the time.”

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