Saudis ‘Googling’ for housemaids in Ramadan

newsimageJeddah — Hours before the start of Ramadan, search engine Google documented 467,000 pages carrying the sentence “searching for maids in Saudi,” and 257,000 pages with the words “housemaid sponsorship transfer” and “domestic help for hire for a month.” Despite the fact that agents are active weeks before the holy month fulfilling the need of families for domestic help in Ramadan, the online search for housemaids indicate that there is a thriving black market in this field. The fees for sponsorship transfer jumped from SR15,000 to SR35,000. The fee differs based on nationalities. There is an increased demand in Ramadan from families for domestic help, which is met by an increase in wages demanded by housemaids. Domestic helps also exploit the need of families and decide to work on an hourly payment basis in Ramadan, with wages ranging from SR25 to SR40 an hour. The wages differ based on the number of family members and the size of the house. It has been estimated that some of these housemaids earn between SR8,000 and SR9,000 in Ramadan. A Saudi female lawyer Najwa Filimban said that these ads constitute human trafficking which is banned by the Saudi law. She said that the ads on sponsorship transfer or sponsors allowing their housemaids to work for others for a fee are similar to slavery. Those who post such ads can be imprisoned for a maximum of 15 years and/or fined SR1 million. In Bahrain, authorities filed a case of human trafficking against a recruitment agency which placed an ad earlier this month offering an Ethiopian housemaid as a prize for a Ramadan contest. The contest had only one condition: the winner must have a work permit for the housemaid.