As evacuation flights begin air-lifting Nigerian ladies trapped in Saudi Arabia, the trafficked victims affected have asked the Nigerian Government to wave the COVID-19 Polymerase Chain Reaction repeat test fee.
The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control announced on Wednesday that anyone travelling into the country would have to show a negative PCR test done 96 hours before departure.
They would also be expected to make an online payment of around N50,000 for a repeat test to be conducted in Nigeria.
Speaking on behalf of the ladies, one of the Nigerians behind the evacuation plan, Alade Abdulaziz, said most of the girls returning to the country hoped to leave since early August.
He said they had all done COVID-19 tests before coming to Jeddah from different parts of the kingdom to embark on a return journey back home.
Abdulaziz said the second batch of ladies to be evacuated, who left on Saturday, had to pay 550 riyals – N55,865 for emergency tests to fulfill the NCDC’s travel conditions.
“These ladies were able to get their bosses to do free COVID-19 tests for them in early August,” he said. “Now with the new order, they will have to spend more than N110,000 in addition to the money for air fare that they paid.”
He said in the month leading up to their final departure, these ladies had spent out of the little earnings they made to feed themselves.
“It’s like the Nigerian Government is asking them to pay everything they have worked for just to come back, it is not fair on these ladies,” he said.
Spokesperson for the Chairperson of the Nigerians in Diaspora commission, Abdur-Rahman Balogun, told SaharaReporters that the commission has not received any proposal to wave fees for COVID-19 repeat tests.
“This people coming now, they have not written to either us or foreign affairs to tell us that they cannot afford the repeat tests and they need our help,” he said.
Head of operations at anti-trafficking advocacy, NGO Hopes Haven, Damilola Adekola, said the Nigerian Government should consider making the repeat test free for those registered as victims of trafficking.
“Not all of the returnees from Saudi will be trafficked ladies,” he said. “There are some who genuinely went there to work. The Nigerian Government should please consider waving the fee for the repeat test for those listed as trafficked by the embassy in Riyadh. They should also do this for any other victim of trafficking returning to the country.”
SaharaReporters gathered that the Oyo State Government is covering the tab for its indigenes, who returned from Oman and Lebanon last week.
There were 23 ladies on the flight from Jeddah on Saturday.
Plans have been laid out for more to leave within the week.
Although airlines are now willing to evacuate stranded Nigerians from the kingdom, many employers are still holding on to their Nigerian housemaids, saying Saudi airports were not open to international flights.
There are also lots of trafficked Nigerian ladies, who ran out of the employ of the families they were assigned to because they could not keep up with the torture and abuse.
These ladies would have to be cleared by Saudi immigration with help from the Nigerian Government.
Without any intervention, they may face the grim possibility of turning themselves over to Saudi justice.
As COVID-19 broke out across the world, the Saudi Government rounded up migrant workers from Africa and herded them into crowded centres without sanitation.
The UK Telegraph reported that some of them, who have stayed there for months, resorted to committing suicide as a means of escape.
It is this fate that awaits any Nigerian lady, who was forced to run if government does not help to facilitate their clearance.