Hundreds of Sri Lankan women who lost their jobs after a factory chain in Jordan was shut down over a month ago are unable to either return home or find shelter due to lack of capacity of their country's mission.
The workers alongside Indians and Bangladeshis have complained to the Ministry of Labour in Jordan. Apart from the Sri Lankans, others have been able to find accommodation through their embassies.
“All workers are suffering, but we believe that the Sri Lankan embassy in Jordan does not have a special residence to receive workers,” says a leading Jordanian human rights body.
“It is worth noting that we have not received complaints from Sri Lankan workers at Jordan working in the factory,” said a lawyer for Tamkeen based in Amman. Tamkeen that supports the rights and labour movements of Jordanian workers, migrants, and refugees.
The workers suffer non-payment of salary following the factory owner fleeing the country. Indian and Bangladeshi workers facing the same predicament but had decided to contact the nonprofit organisation in the hopes of airing out their grievances.
At least 350 are stranded Sri Lankan workers in Jordan following the closure of three factories of an apparel manufacturer in the Sahabi region. Aseel Universal Garments Manufacturing Co. had claimed bankruptcy with the factory owner leaving the country. This had resulted in unpaid salaries leading to workers being unable to fly home.
Colombo based media have reported that the jobless Sri Lankans are housed in hostels and company accommodation. However, they lack basic facilities according to testimonies on social media.
‘Expat heroes’ dumped
“Does Sri Lanka only want our dollars?” questioned an angry woman protesting outside the Sri Lankan embassy in Jordan. “I don’t have proper meals, I don’t have water, I have fallen ill for the past month. Who is there to tell about my suffering?.”
She further questioned “After we do all the work and when we are kicked out who is there to look after us? We are left high and dry in this country, what on earth is the embassy doing here? Those from the embassy just come and do lip service. There is no help at all. “
In a tearful appeal to get them back home she asked “Salaries of three to four months are in arrears. We have to get seven months ‘social’. We are only asking for our rights. Are we described as ‘expat heroes’ only by name? The factory has been shut for one month.”
The Sri Lankan government is yet to finalise plans to bring home their citizens.
“Among these Sri Lankans, there are those who have gone to Jordan after registering with the relevant local agencies such as the Foreign Employment Bureau. There are some others who have gone there on tourist visas and been working. We can act with regard to the first category under the general procedure, but a special decision will have to be taken regarding the second category,” State Minister for Foreign Employment Promotion Jagath Pushpakumara has told journalists in Colombo.
The minister says that SL already had made a complaint with the Jordanian labour authorities.
“When a factory is closed, its employees should be compensated. The relevant official there has lodged a complaint with regard to this factory. Therefore, some of the Sri Lankans plan to return to Sri Lanka when they are paid compensation after the relevant procedures.”
It is unclear how long these ‘relevant procedures’ will take for the government to come up with any action to prevent the situation of the displaced 350 workers from getting any worse.