About two million Sri Lankans, mainly women, are working as unqualified labour in various countries of the middle east. The woman often work as housemaids, being exposed to the risk of being held in slave-like conditions, being abused, never get paid for their work or even disappear completely.

The families left behind facing huge social and economical challenges. Some fathers are not capable to assume their familiar responsibilities because they have to work in other parts of the county, they have problems with alcohol or just leave the children on their own to marry other women.

This reportage was done in an assignment for the SDC - Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation in the region of Ampara in eastern Sri Lanka.

Find more information and photos of the visited families in the News-section.

Geschätzte Zwei Millionen Sri Lanker und Sri Lankerinnen arbeiten als unqualifizierte Arbeitskräfte in Ländern des Mittleren Ostens. Die meisten sind Frauen. Oftmals arbeiten sie als Haushälterinnen in sklavenähnlichen Verhältnissen – mit der ständigen Angst, nicht bezahlt, missbraucht, verschleppt, oder gar getötet zu werden.

Die hinterbliebenen Familien in Sri Lanka haben mit enormen sozialen und ökonomischen Schwierigkeiten zu kämpfen. Oft sind die Väter der familiären Verantwortung nicht gewachsen. Sie haben Alkoholprobleme, arbeiten in anderen Landesteilen, oder heiraten andere Frauen. Die nicht selten minderjährigen Kinder bleiben dabei zurück und sind ganz auf sich allein gestellt.

Seven year old Suhirthana is looking after her two year old sister. Her mother went to work in Saudi Arabia and her father doesn't show any interest in his children.
The only support the two children receive is from their grandfather Madasamy.
The grandfather generates very little income by repairing bicycles but spends most of it on alcohol.
Poverty forced the mother of 15 year old Vinothini (left) to work abroad.
Vinothini's has to look after her younger brother Vinojan who is sick and can't attent school at the moment.
As the father separated from the family, the two children are on their own.
19 year old Ajanthini (background) manages the whole household for her six brothers and sisters. They are left alone after their mother went to work in Saudi Arabia and their father finds work in other parts of the country.
15 year old Thusa is not regular attending school due to the difficulties of the family.
Seven year old Thisanthan is offering an ostrich feather at the families altar.
Three year old Banu is sleeping at the ground while Ajanthini is handling her schoolbooks. Due to her responsibilities for the familie she had to give up her eduacation.
The oldest son, 14 year old Nishanthan is supporting the family by herding buffaloes. He manges the 10 km distance to the pasturelands twice a day by bicycle and earns LKR 9'000 (about 70 USD) a month.
Dreams of young girls. Dreams of children.
The former house of the familie, where they lived before the oldest daughter committed suicide due to the difficult family situation.
Five year old Divishanth is showing a photo of his mother who went to work in Saudi Arabia.
Divishanth's father works as a "coolie" and is mostly not present at home.
Seven year old Sivakumar is the oldest of three sons.
The Grandmother Namayee helps maintaining the household.
Strong-Beer to numb the difficulties.
Mrs. Kantharasa holding the ID Card of her daughter Inthiranee, who left Sri Lanka 12 years ago to work in Saudi Arabia. Inthiranee never returned or contacted her parents ever since.
In sorrow and distress over the missing of her daughter, Mrs. Kantharasa spend all her money in search for assistance from fortune tellers and astrologist. That for she even sold her land.
16 year old Pavithra has to maintain the household for the whole family again, as her mother left to work abroad for a second time.
Pavithra's school books remain untouched those days.
Since Mr. Pankeswary's wife has gone to work in the middle east he is not going fishing anymore due to depression and his addiction to alkohol.
Dreams of a better future.