The Ministry of Labor has started cracking down on people employing housemaids who have run away from their original sponsors.
The ministry, according to a report published by Al-Eqtisadiah on Sunday, announced punitive measures were for the first time taken against a Saudi citizen who admitted employing a housemaid who escaped from her original sponsor.
The ministry said Saturday Deputy Labor Minister Miferij Al-Haqbani had passed an order preventing the Saudi from recruiting workers for two years.
The minister did not say when or how the runaway housemaid was caught, but explained the deputy minister's decision was based on a ministerial resolution issued in 1980 preventing individuals and establishments caught employing workers who have run away from their sponsors from recruiting for two years.
The Saudi market is awaiting the launch of at least 10 new recruitment companies that will provide enough foreign manpower and hopefully put an end to the problem of runaway employees.
According to market sources, the Saudi market might face an acute shortage in the number of housemaids coming from Kenya after the media in that country published incorrect reports about the bad treatment housemaids allegedly suffered at the hands of their Saudi employers.
Meanwhile, the National Recruitment Committee at the Saudi Council of Chambers on Saturday warned all private recruitment offices that importing manpower from Kenya might not be easy.
Committee Chairman Saad Al-Baddah said Kenyan workers started having second thoughts about coming to the Kingdom after the local media reports. "The media in Kenya attacked the Kingdom and reported false stories which distorted the picture of the Saudi labor market. Consequently, the number of Kenyan citizens wishing to work in the Kingdom has greatly dwindled," he said.
Al-Baddah, however, said issuing work visas to manpower from Kenya was still continuing. "There is no intention to halt the issuance of work visas for Kenya despite the sharp drop in employees coming from there," he added.
He said his committee explained the problems regarding the recruitment of Kenyan workers to all local recruitment offices through chambers of commerce.
Al-Baddah refused to comment on reports about the increasing number of incidents involving Ethiopian housemaids but said the Labor Ministry established a mechanism to train housemaids coming from the African country.
Ibrahim Al-Sanie, deputy chairman of the recruitment committee of the Eastern Province chamber of commerce, held Kenyan recruitment offices responsible for the slow flow of workers from the country. "These offices are not acting in a professional manner. They do not explain to the Kenyan employees the nature of their work in the Kingdom," he said.
Al-Sanie said excluding Indonesia and the Philippines, there are enough substitute countries from where Saudis can import housemaids, such as Ethiopia, Sri Lanka and Kenya.
He said it would take a recruited housemaid at least three months to arrive in the Kingdom and warned recruitment offices not to promise customers a shorter turnaround time.