Migrants group deplores beheading of Rizana Nafeek in Saudi Arabia

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NO child should be put in such a deplorable situation! No migrant should be denied her rights!

This is the statement of the International Migrants’ Alliance as it cries for justice for the death of Rizana Nafeek, a Sri Lankan domestic worker who was put to death by beheading by the government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

“Not only are we saddened but angered by the sheer neglect by the KSA government, through its judiciary system, of Nafeek’s rights,” IMA said.

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have reported that Nafeek was not with her lawyer all the time and that she was not given full translation assistance during the time of the investigation and of her hearing.

On top of this denial to due process, the mere fact that Nafeek was found out to be only 17 years old during the time of the case, the execution already violates Nafeek’s right as a child and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, the group said.

Nafeek, in 2005, was accused of killing the four-month old son of her employer and was sentenced to death right after.

Nafeek’s beheading is very telling of the horrible conditions migrants face in the KSA and many Gulf countries.

IMA said with the Kafala sponsorship system strongly enforced and practiced in these countries, migrant workers could only work legally if they have a “legal sponsor” but they could not leave or change employment without the permission of that sponsor. Clearly, the lives of migrant workers are left at the mercy of their employers. Violating this is deemed criminal thus pushing many migrant workers to flee and forced to becoming undocumented migrants.

With limited rights and an environment that curb their rights and liberties, migrant workers are forced in a conflict situation where they either flee for their lives and become “criminals” or use force to defend their lives. We remember Venancio Ladion aka Jenifer Beduya, a Filipino migrant worker executed for killing his employer who attempted to sexually assault him.

Migrant workers in the KSA and many Gulf countries are denied their rights to free speech, assembly and association. Suppressing the rights of migrant workers to organize and collectively fight and assert their rights and concerns is a means by the KSA government to perpetuate the abuse of migrant workers and to leave their own repressive and anti-migrant policies unchecked and unchallenged.

“The Sri Lankan government, on the other hand, should be equally liable in the tragic fate of Nafeek. It has, through its respective agencies, allowed the trafficking of Nafeek out of Sri Lanka and into the KSA to work. In addition, it has done very little to provide all possible assistance to Nafeek during the time of her trial and until the time of her execution,” the group said.

We in the IMA demand the international condemnation of this unjust, brutal and barbaric killing of Rizana Nafeek. The KSA government should be made aware of and rebuked for their violation of Rizana’s rights as well as of other migrant workers’. We demand the United Nations to take decisive action in admonishing the KSA government for the latter’s violation of migrants’ rights.

The International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families should be enforced in the KSA, among many other Gulf countries, and ensure the domestification of laws to ensure that the rights, freedoms and dignity of migrant workers are protected and upheld at all times. The Kafala system should be abolished immediately and without condition.

“We demand the complete review and improvement of the judiciary system as well as repeal of laws and policies in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia that curb and violate rights of migrant workers. More protection should be given to migrant workers who under such conditions become vulnerable to exploitation and abuse,” the group said.

Together with the KSA government, the Sri Lankan government should not be left off the hook. Equally responsible for the death of Nafeek, the Sri Lankan government should immediately address the issue of trafficking by enforcing stronger laws against child and human trafficking, creating protection mechanisms for their migrant workers, and quickly responding to Sri Lankan migrants in need. It should also provide indemnification to Rizana Nafeek’s family who has suffered a great deal of loss with her passing.

The Sri Lankan government should also seriously and concretely address the roots of forced labor migration.

Nafeek, a woman from the rural areas of Sri Lanka, was enticed probably by a better life abroad and recruited to be a migrant worker.

The group called on all our member and friend organizations to join the international community in condemning this brutal act through various actions such as writing statements and holding picket protests at their respective KSA and Sri Lanka consulates or embassies.

No more children like Nafeek should suffer such a fate. No more children like her should be trafficked, abused, deprived, neglected and exploited, the group said.

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