Hospital bill ‘grounds’ bedridden housemaid
By Meraj Rizvi
11 April 2005
DUBAI — A Sri Lankan housemaid who recently escaped the clutches of prostitution in Dubai and is currently bedridden in Rashid Hospital says she wants to return home to Kandy, oblivious of how she will settle the huge hospital bill of Dh17,000, and where she will find shelter until completion of deportation procedures.
The 25-year-old Amali Wijiyatunga, a mother of two and having a husband suffering from cancer, is stuck in a wheelchair after two leg surgeries. She suffered the injuries six weeks ago when she tried to escape from a house of prostitution in Dubai jumping off the apartment located on the fourth storey of a Deira building.
“Actually, I cannot tell the level of the apartment as it was the first time I was taken to this house by Nasir, an Indian who I learnt later operated a prostitution racket in Dubai,” said Amali from her hospital bed shunning away the media in the fear of complicating matters further for herself which could lead to a delay in her returning home.
But, the Sri Lankan worker was oblivious that although the doctors have agreed to discharge her, she will have to settle a huge hospital bill and face the legal consequences of an absconding domestic worker. “I have no money to pay the hospital,” the housemaid said and repeatedly insisted that she wanted to return to Sri Lanka soon to be with her children and husband. “I will never return to this country again,” she said.
The Sri Lankan Consul-General, P.D. Fernando told Khaleej Times that the Consulate officials had visited Amali in the hospital yesterday after learning of her case. He said there is a huge hospital bill to settle and the Consulate cannot take upon itself the burden on her behalf. Besides, she was taken to the hospital by the Dubai Police and since the police are involved, they will have to complete the legal formalities of a run-away worker before the Consulate could involve itself in the case.
“We empathise with Amali, but there is no way the Consulate can provide her shelter after she is discharged from the hospital and until her deportation. Since Amali cannot walk and is stuck in a wheelchair, she will need special care and assistance to carry out her daily chores and the Consulate does not have such facilities,” Fernando said, unable to tell what course of action will be taken in Amali's case once discharged from hospital.
However, he said the Sri Lankan Consulate officials have requested the hospital to give them some time and let Amali stay until things are clear both from the Police and by the local authorities.
“We are also trying to check with the Sri Lankan Bureau of Foreign Employment (SLBFE) about her registration to help her avail of the insurance benefits, but it seems that she arrived in the UAE privately not through the Bureau,” he disclosed.
Consulate officials, voicing concern on the increasing number of abuse cases of Sri Lankan domestic workers brought to their notice, said they know that this is no solution to resolve Amali's problems and alleviate her sufferings. They said they would have to once again seek the community's assistance to extend help to this Sri Lankan worker. But, the local authorities should take up strong measures against those who take advantage of innocent expatriate workers and force them into immoral activities, they added.
Today it is Amali, but tomorrow it can be another girl, if the criminals are not punished, they said, expecting the authorities to cooperate to waive fines and penalties and the hospital charges in Amali's case to enable her to return home without further sufferings.
Amali who arrived in Ras Al Khaimah in 2003 to work as a maid in the house of an Asian family ran away from her sponsor after working for a year and three months. She then arrived in Sharjah and worked as domestic helper in various homes. But, after a while she returned to her sponsor for her passport so that she could go back home. The sponsor agreed to return the passport if she paid him Dh 5,000 but she managed to pay him Dh4,000.
She was then taken by her sponsor to a Deira apartment on the pretext of providing her shelter until her return to Sri Lanka where she was forced to entertain men. But she refused and one of the man also threatened to kill her with a knife. In panic, she jumped from the building and suffered serious injuries. The police had rushed her to Rashid Hospital where she has been under treatment for six weeks.