Lanka insists on insurance coverage for housemaids

“An important feature in the scheme is that the employer will have to make the total insurance premium without any financial burden on the employee,” the official said.The social protection scheme is considered a win-win mechanism for both parties as the concerns of both groups are met in a comprehensive manner, he said.Lankan men and women below 50 years, who seek employment in the Kingdom as domestic aides will come under the scheme. Workers already in Saudi will be integrated when their employment agreement is renewed. The official said the arrival of Sri Lankan maids was continuing as usual. They include new recruits and those who have gone to Colombo on exit re-entry visas. Sri Lanka is seeking the implementation of a negotiated insurance plan from employers in the Kingdom for new housemaids arriving here to protect both the employees as well as the Saudi sponsors, a senior official from the Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment (SLBFE) told Arab News.Amid reports from Colombo that Sri Lanka has suspended sending maids to Saudi Arabia, SLBFE Chairman Amal Senadhilankara told Arab News from Colombo that SLBFE is seriously considering to send only the maids with a valid insurance cover obtained in the Kingdom. In proven cases of abuse against the employee, he or she would be paid SR 15,000 (maximum) as compensation. In cases of non-payment of salaries, the employee would be compensated up to six months. In addition to financial benefits, the cover includes legal assistance and language translation facilities, free of charge.The insurance scheme also covers losses incurred by the employer, in case of wrong doings by the worker. In case of employee vacating his/her job before the stipulated period, the employer is provided with the initial payment they made to the employment agent (maximum SR 8,000).The employer has the right to claim the payment made to the employment agent plus the expenses incurred for the airline ticket needed to send the employee back home if the employee refuses to carry out his or her job functions. The scheme is a follow-up to a decision made by Foreign Employment Promotion and Welfare Minister Dilan Perera with the Saudi Labor Minister during his visit to the Kingdom.It was agreed at the meeting that the Sri Lankan government would appoint an international insurance company and the Saudi government would persuade the sponsor to pay the premium on behalf of his employee who will be working as a maid in his house.“Such an arrangement will ease the problems of both the employee and the employer, as also the two governments in case of eventuality such as repatriation of dead bodies, medical treatment and accidents,” the minister said.A large percentage of the 550,000 Sri Lankan workers in the Kingdom are housemaids who remit a sizable sum to the national coffers of their country. Remittances from Lankan overseas workers is the second largest foreign exchange earner in Colombo.Meanwhile, the Sri Lankan cabinet increased the age limit of the housemaids coming to Saudi Arabia to 25 to curtail labor problems.The cabinet authorized the ministry to impose conditions on female domestic workers seeking Employment opportunities abroad in future.The minimum age for Saudi Arabia is limited to 25 for housemaids and all female workers should have completed 21 days residential training and obtained National Vocational Qualification(NVQ) level 3 certificate for “Domestic Housekeeping Assistant. Hitherto , the age limit was 21 to all countries.To control under-age housemaids going for foreign employment, the SLBFE has deployed more than 50 staff at the Colombo International Airport to assist the island’s overseas workers and to stop such maids leaving the country for employment. (Arab News) The benefits to the employee include the payment of SR 15,000 (Rs 435,000) for dependents in case of death of the worker (either due to accident or natural causes) and SR 15,000 (maximum) for hospital admission or OPD treatment for illness. The proposed insurance scheme, International Social Security Program (ISSP), which was earlier agreed between Saudi and Lankan authorities, applies only to domestic aides, who are coming into the Kingdom for employment from Colombo.He added that the program has been devised to support Sri Lanka’s migrant labor in the domestic categories in Saudi Arabia.The program was introduced by the SLBFE in association with the ISSP International. He also denied a report in Colombo’s Sunday Leader newspaper that Sri Lanka had suspended sending maids to the Kingdom. But he acknowledged that tougher regulations were being introduced to protect the rights of Sri Lankan migrant workers. read more

Central African Republic UN measles vaccination campaign to protect 125000 children

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and its partners are launching an emergency measles vaccination campaign that will aim to reach 125,000 children in the Central African Republic (CAR).The five-day campaign, which begins tomorrow, will take place in the conflict-hit Bangui, the country’s capital, after eight children tested positive for the disease last month.“Measles is one of the leading causes of death among young children. Mass violence and armed conflict in CAR has left millions of people without access to basic health care, with hundreds of thousands of children at risk from a disease that can spread rapidly amongst deprived communities,” said UNICEF Representative Souleymane Diabate.Fighting flared up in CAR in December 2012 when the Séléka rebel coalition launched a series of attacks. A peace agreement was reached in January, but the rebels again seized Bangui in March forcing President François Bozizé to flee.The fighting has led to a breakdown of basic services and increased the risk of disease outbreaks in Bangui and across the country. This, along with poor living conditions, and a historically low vaccination rate for measles of 62 per cent, means that the lives of large numbers of children are now at risk from the disease, UNICEF said in a news release.The agency noted the campaign faces considerable challenges as secure humanitarian access to those in need remains difficult in CAR. In addition, many regions will be even harder to access as the rainy season sets in. “Wherever access permits, UNICEF is on the ground working with partners to deliver life-saving interventions. Our immediate priorities are to provide emergency response in health, nutrition, water and sanitation, and to protect children from violence, separation and recruitment into armed groups,” said Mr. Diabate.In preparation for the campaign, 246,500 vaccines arrived in Bangui last Wednesday, including 100,000 vaccines purchased by funds donated by the airline easyJet. The vaccines will be used to respond to the measles outbreak in Bangui and to improve routine measles vaccination in high-risk regions of the country.Since the 24 March 2013 coup, UNICEF has provided direct support for emergency health activities at the four main hospitals in Bangui and health centres throughout the country, including emergency health supplies for up to 141,000 people over three months. read more