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 Post subject: Collateral damage: 93,000 Sri Lankans trapped in Lebanon
 Post Posted: Fri Jul 21, 2006 11:54 pm 
Sri Lanka evacuates 300 from Lebanon -- 92,700 to go

Around 1.5 million Sri Lankans work abroad, most of them women working in the Middle East as domestic staff, and many are not registered with their local embassies. There are around 93,000 Sri Lankans currently working in Lebanon, 86,000 of them as housemaids.

Fri Jul 21, 2006
@ Reuters India

COLOMBO (Reuters) - Sri Lanka is facing a logistical nightmare in trying to contact around 93,000 nationals -- mostly housemaids -- working in Lebanon, and has so far managed to evacuate just 300, officials said on Friday.

Around 1.5 million Sri Lankans work abroad, most of them women working in the Middle East as domestic staff, and many are not registered with their local embassies -- which are small anyway and do not have the resources to reach so many people in times of crisis.

There are around 93,000 Sri Lankans currently working in Lebanon, 86,000 of them housemaids, said Jagath Wellawatta, Chairman of Sri Lanka's Foreign Employment Bureau.

"It is logistically very, very difficult to get in contact with that many people. We have under 500 people waiting to be evacuated, but we hope that number will increase," he said.

"We have very few officials in the Lebanon embassy ... We don't know where people are staying or if they are injured or not," Wellawatta added. "If it is necessary, we are ready to evacuate all Sri Lankan workers."

Sri Lanka has advised all of its nationals to leave Lebanon in the face of deepening conflict between Israel and Hizbollah. Aid groups including Caritas and the International Organisation for Migration are helping to evacuate those who have gathered at Sri Lanka's Lebanon mission to Damascus.


© Reuters 2006.


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 Post subject: Collateral damage: Sri Lanka caught in Israel-Lebanon war
 Post Posted: Wed Jul 26, 2006 9:58 pm 
Collateral damage: Sri Lanka caught in Israel-Lebanon war

BY AMEEN IZZADEEN
@ Khaleej Times Online / 26 July 2006


THEIR jobs bombarded and their future shattered, the first batch of some 260 Sri Lankans — the largest expatriate community in Lebanon after the Palestinian refugees — arrived in Colombo early Saturday on a special SriLankan Airlines flight from Damascus.

As they arrived, they poured out their anguish and related the horror they faced and the plight facing their unfortunate friends whom they left behind in Lebanon to suffer a double blow by the Israeli bombardment and the attitude of some of their employers.

The foreign ministry here confirms that one Sri Lankan housemaid was crushed to death in an Israeli air strike. But those who arrived on Saturday say they believe that several of their colleagues who worked as housemaids in southern Lebanon are dead or left to die inside locked houses by their employers who asked them to look after their properties before they left for the safety of Syria or northern parts of Lebanon — a "made-in-Lebanon" blow to the maids who washed their dishes and clothes, cleaned their houses and looked after their children.

I am not stereotyping the action of some of the employers. There may be thousands of Lebanese who have taken their maids with them when they left. But often the negative is highlighted, probably because the feeling of hurt caused by a negative act generates anger and an urge to hit back in whatever way.

The unfortunate Sri Lankans in Lebanon watched in indignation when the US, Britain, France, Canada and even our neighbour India sent aircraft and ships to evacuate their nationals. With the exception of India, none volunteered to take the brown skinned Sri Lankans on board. The scenes surrounding them may offer a script for the Lebanese version of the movie ‘Hotel Rwanda’. The westerners left Rwanda in 1994 before one million Tutsis were massacred by the Hutus. The evacuation operations that are taking place in Lebanon smack of racism. There were no major international efforts to get the helpless people — like the Sri Lankan housemaids — out of Lebanon. There was a mass-scale UN-sponsored evacuation of expatriates from Kuwait when Iraq occupied that country in 1990. Not only were the expatriates brought back to their countries, they were assured of compensation. Even today part of Iraq’s oil revenue is diverted to this global compensation fund.

The UN Security Council will not pass a resolution against Israel, compelling it to pay compensation for the maids who were killed or the Sri Lankans who lost their jobs in Lebanon as a direct result of bombing. Even if Sri Lanka presents a resolution to this effect, the great protector of Israel, the United States, will veto it — just as it has been vetoing virtually every resolution against Israel since 1948-or may even say such compensation should be paid by Hezbollah, Syria or Iran.

Let alone compensation, there is no guarantee that when Israeli troops invade Lebanon, they will not harm the Sri Lankan maids. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, the President of the Philippines, which is as helpless as Sri Lanka, appealed to both Israel and Hezbollah to spare some 30,000 Filipinos, most of whom are, also housemaids. Colombo’s Sunday Times newspaper in an editorial this week slammed the government for indifference and lacking any contingency plan to evacuate Sri Lankans from Lebanon.

"Probably, if they (Sri Lankan migrant workers) are given the right to vote like the overseas citizens of many democracies, there may be just a little more concern for them by Governments in Colombo," the newspaper said.

The Lebanese crisis offers a good lesson for Sri Lankan government in its war against the LTTE. In the past, hardline political parties, hawkish ministers and generals have advocated an Israeli-style all out bombardment of LTTE-controlled areas even if that meant a high civilian casualty toll.

However, the governments have spurned their suggestions, pointing out that such barbaric action would certainly draw the fury of the international community and Sri Lankan leaders could even face war crimes charges.

But the situation is different today. Statements made by President Bush, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and leaders of Britain and Canada suggest that "civilized" nations have no qualms about the mass-scale killings of innocent civilians or the destruction of houses and civilian infrastructure in Israel’s ‘war on terror’. Hey, wait a minute, remember that what’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.

Will the West which oils the Israeli war machine allow the Sri Lankan government to wage its war on terror in northern Sri Lanka a la Israel? Surely, when the West approves what Israel is doing in Lebanon, the assumption is that either there is a new interpretation to laws governing warfare or the Lebanese people are not human beings — maybe pests who should be weeded out.

If, in case, the Tigers launch a major attack this week to commemorate the 23rd anniversary of the 1983 July 23 riots that marked the beginning of Sri Lanka’s ethnic war, Sri Lankan government can assume that it is now licenced to bomb civilian areas infested with terrorists. After all, the practice of the so-called civilized states becomes a source of international law.


Ameen Izzadeen is a senior Sri Lankan journalist


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