Category Archives: Sri Lanka

Death of a housemaid: the tragedy of Rizana Nafeek

Rizana Nafeek's photo in the doctored passport that claimed she was older than her 17 years.  Credit: Commons

Rizana Nafeek’s photo in the doctored passport that claimed she was older than her 17 years. Credit: Commons

Caritas Sri Lanka Director Fr George Sigamoney says he is deeply upset by the execution of Sri Lankan housemaid Rizana Nafeek in Saudi Arabia on 9 January.

Caritas had fought for her release since she was sentenced in 2007 to beheading for strangling a baby she was looking after as a nanny in 2005. Rizana was just a minor herself when the tragedy took place. She maintains that it was an accident caused by her inexperienced efforts to save the baby from choking.

“Unfortunately, what we expected to happen happened,” he said. “As a representative of the Church and of Caritas I want to express my sorrow and solidarity to Rizana’s family. I pray for them that they may have the courage needed to face their pain and get through this moment.”

“I want to remember Rizana in another way,” Fr George said. “As a nation, we must reflect and weep for the loss of this young life.”

Rizana Nafeek was among the approximately 1.5 million women, mostly from Sri Lanka, Indonesia and the Philippines, working in private homes in Saudi Arabia. While some are treated well, domestic workers in Saudi Arabia enjoy fewer legal protections than any other type of workers and human rights groups have documented abuses.

Sri Lanka has recalled its ambassador to Saudi Arabia following the execution. Fr. George said, “I believe the time has come for government authorities to deal in a serious manner with the predicament of migrant workers seeking employment in the Middle East.”

The case has also caused widespread global outrage.

Caroline Nanzer, a project manager at Caritas Migrant Centre in Lebanon said, “The kafala system [sponsorship system] ties the employer to the employee and this system is also the cause of the many abuses that the maid workers suffer here in the Middle East …. What happened to Nafeek is also the consequence of a system that should be ended as soon as possible.”

Caritas Internationalis is urging Middle East and Gulf States to ratify and implement an ILO convention and recommendation on the protection of domestic workers that contains also special provisions for  domestic workers who are migrants. Among other things, upon ratification the convention puts pressure on governments to ensure they adapt their laws so that there are provisions for the respect of migrant domestic workers rights.

Sources: Asia News and Al Jazeera

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Filed under Advocacy, Asia, Domestic servitude, Labor exploitation, Middle East & North Africa, Migration, Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka: Caritas provides artificial limbs for war disabled

Civilians sit in a line to receive food in the Menikfam Vanni refugee camp located near the town of Chettekulam in northern Sri Lanka April 29, 2009. Reuters/Stringer www.alertnet.org

Civilians sit in a line to receive food in the Menikfam Vanni refugee camp located near the town of Chettekulam in northern Sri Lanka April 29, 2009. Reuters/Stringer http://www.alertnet.org

Little Vathani celebrated her eighth birthday a few months ago in Visvamadhu, a village in war-torn northern Sri Lanka. The next morning, her village was attacked by aerial bombardment and artillery. The terrified girl was running through the paddy fields when she was hit by a shell, which blew her leg away.
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Filed under Asia, Conflicts and Disasters, Emergencies, Emergencies in Sri Lanka, Peacebuilding, Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka: Feeding 12,800 people 3 times a day

REUTERS/Stringer www.alertnet.org

REUTERS/Stringer http://www.alertnet.org

By Dolores Bachmann, Caritas Emergency Response Team Leader, Colombo, Sri Lanka

Caritas is providing much needed food and other assistance to the many displaced in Vavuniya and Jaffna in northern Sri Lanka.

More than 188,000 people have now crossed into government-controlled areas and are in camps in Vavuniya , Jaffna and Trincomalee. Up to 1,700 injured people have been transferred to various hospitals in Mannar, Trincomalee, Anuradhapura, Colombo.

Caritas is providing food for over 7,000 people in seven camps in Jaffna Diocese and some 12,500 in Manic Farm Zone 1 in the Diocese of Mannar. The planning, procurement and logistical challenges of providing food for so many are daunting and requires collaboration with the authorities, UN agencies and other NGOs working in the area.

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Injured Caritas Vanni director moved to Colombo

Fr. Vasanthaseelan, sustanied serious injuries in shelling on Thursday 23rd April, in Valaignarmadam area and his left leg was amputed and needed further urgent medical treatment.

Fr. Vasanthaseelan, sustanied serious injuries in shelling on Thursday 23rd April, in Valaignarmadam area and his left leg was amputed and needed further urgent medical treatment.

His Grace the Archbishop Oswald Gomis in a letter on 27th April 2009, appealed to Hon. Gotabaya Rajapaksh, Secretary of Defence requesting to grant him to permission to the relevant authorities to transfer Rev. Fr. Vasanthaseelan from Vavuniya Hospital to Colombo General Hospital.

Fr. Vasanthaseelan, sustanied serious injuries in shelling on Thursday 23rd April, in Valaignarmadam area and his left leg was amputed and needed further urgent medical treatment.

We have received the informationl that Fr. Vasanthaseelan has been transferred today to Colombo General Hospital for further medical treatment.
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Filed under Asia, Conflicts and Disasters, Emergencies, Emergencies in Sri Lanka, Peacebuilding, Sri Lanka

Caritas stands with the people of Sri Lanka

"Caritas will stay with the people trapped under bombardment in Vanni until the last one is safe," - A Caritas Sri Lanka Staff member. Caritas is working with the war victims in Sri Lanka

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Filed under Asia, Conflicts and Disasters, Emergencies, Emergencies in Sri Lanka, Peacebuilding, Sri Lanka

Fear reaching terrifying proportions in Sri Lanka

Representatives of four non-governmental organizations yesterday called on the United Nations to speak out on the situation in northern Sri Lanka and urged the Security Council to take up the matter under the concept of “responsibility to protect”.

Speaking at a Headquarters press conference where they discussed the situation in and around the “no-fire zone” in northern Sri Lanka -– where Government forces are poised to overrun positions held by rebel fighters of the Liberation of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) -– were Joseph Cornelius Donnelly of Caritas Internationalis; Anna Neistat of Human Rights Watch; Robert Templer of the International Crisis Group; and Nimmi Gowrinathan of Operation USA. James Traub of the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect was available to answer questions. The press conference was sponsored by the Permanent Mission of Denmark to the United Nations.
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Sri Lankan baby born with sharpnel wound

Baby S is doing well after being born with sharpnel in her leg

Baby S is doing well after being born with sharpnel in her leg

Innocent people have been caught up in Sri Lanka’s civil war, raging in the Vanni district. None more innocent than Baby S.

Thankfully this story has a happy ending.

Her mother was wounded in the tummy when still carrying Baby S on 2 March. She went into labour a few days later and the beautiful Baby S was born last week.

Health staff noticed that the child had a shell piece in her left thigh. The newborn underwent a small surgery immediately after her birth before her first feed and is doing well.

Amdist the death and destruction, one good news story maybe can make people realise the madness of war.

(Real names, dates, and locations have been concealed to safeguard all involved.)

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Filed under Asia, Conflicts and Disasters, Emergencies, Emergencies in Sri Lanka, Sri Lanka