Monthly Archives: August 2016

Great migrant hope

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Indian migrant labourers in Jordon and other West Asian countries have little to hope for unless there is considerable labour reform.

For millions of Indians who travel to the Gulf and other West Asian countries for work, the kafala (sponsor) system is a known devil. As per the system, which operates right across the region, a worker is directly recruited and, subsequently, cared for entirely by his employer. On one hand, this system aids the migration process because once a worker is hired, all his costs for securing visa and other legal documentation, along with his living expenses, like food and accommodation, are paid for. As a result, from the 1960s onwards, there has been steady out-migration of job seekers, skilled, semi-skilled and unskilled, from states like Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh and now, from Goa and Uttar Pradesh as well. The spurt in expatriate workers to the Gulf rode the 1973 oil crisis, and rising oil prices.  But the kafala system is also riddled with corruption, abusive practices and extreme exploitation because it places the well-being of the worker entirely on the firm or individual employing him, without any proper checks and balances. Continue reading

Cost of labour

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Sale of work visas in black market plays havoc with the lives of migrant workers

Foreign remittances sent by Pakistanis working abroad are around six per cent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and hint at the huge number of labour migrants who have left for foreign lands to earn their livelihood. If we go with official figures, more than eight million Pakistanis have officially proceeded abroad for employment between 1971 and 2015. An overwhelming percentage of this population is based in the six Gulf Cooperation Council countries (GCC), including Saudi Arabia. Continue reading

Out of work across the sea

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Thousands of Pakistani migrant workers are stranded in Saudi Arabia, and experts predict the situation will only worsen with the plummeting oil prices

Shahzad Hussain, father of a young son, belongs to district Sheikhupura in Punjab. Around six months ago, he borrowed Rs600,000 from his relatives and friends to go to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, for work and to realise his dream of carving a fortune out there. Since his childhood, he was inspired by some of fellow villagers who had left for the greener pastures decades ago and earned loads of money there.

But once he reached Jeddah he went through a totally unexpected experience. The kafeel (local sponsor), he shares, confiscated his passport and demanded SAR5,000 for a job for him. While talking on the phone, he says, “I complied with this undue demand and was awarded work against a paltry salary of SAR800 but only for a couple of months.”

For the last three months, Hussain complains, he has been jobless, hence rendered penniless. He misses his family and says, “I want to go home but my passport is with my kafeel. He demands money from me if I want it back.” Continue reading

Bangladesh workers abroad face hard time

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Mizanur Rahman, a mason at a construction firm in Saudi Arabia, is worried about losing his job. His employer has recently expressed inability to continue some of the ongoing projects due to financial crisis.

The lone breadwinner of a five-member family from Faridpur cannot even begin to imagine what would happen to his family if he loses the job.

“We are not getting our wages for the last six months. We are still working for the company, hoping the situation would change soon,” said Mizanur, who has been working for Saudi Oger, one of the largest construction firms in Saudi Arabia, for around four years.

“But there is no sign of improvement… Rather, our employer has told us that he may suspend some of the projects for fund crisis,” the 40-year-old migrant worker told The Daily Star over the phone from the kingdom yesterday. Continue reading