"I did not see sunlight during the past 17 years since no one took me out." These pitiful words were spoken by a Sri Lankan maid imprisoned in her sponsor's Saudi Arabian house, where she toiled without pay.
Police in Saudi Arabia are looking for the employer sponsor of 57-year-old Sri Lankan maid Kusuma Nandini, who allegedly kept her a virtual prisoner for 17 years. Nandini had no contact with her family in Sri Lanka during her time in Saudi and it was the concern of her 25-year-old daughter in Kalutara that raised the alarm over the missing maid.
Nandini's daughter informed the Foreign Office in Sri Lanka that the family had not been in contact with her mother for 17 years. Embassy officials responding to the complaint eventually tracked Nandini down, and she was given shelter at the Sri Lankan mission. The Saudi Gazette reported that after 15 years with her sponsor he left her at the Housemaid Service Center of Riyadh Police, before vanishing into thin air.
Accounts of her ordeal emanating from Saudi differ in detail. According to the SG Nandini requested that her sponsor retain her wages on her behalf until she decided to leave the Kingdom, but he reneged by disappearing without paying her. Arab News reported her employer simply did not pay any wages.
Arab News reported a counsellor at the Sri Lankan mission said "We gave shelter to this woman and for the last two years tried to find her sponsor to obtain her outstanding wages, but unfortunately we could not trace him.” According to IBN Nandini was traumatised when she was rescued and "behaved like a robot."
Nandini's health had deteriorated and she had psycological problems, barely remembering her native tongue. She said "I came to Riyadh when my eldest daughter was eight years old. Now she is 25. My son was six years at the time... I did not see sunlight during the past 17 years since no one took me out."
The Saudi government has paid compensation of SR72,000 to Nandini which it hopes to recover from her sponsor if he is located.