Category Archives: Saudi Arabia

Saudi trafficking victim’s struggles continue even after escape

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After two years of hardship in Saudi, Joomaila Beevi returned to India empty handed. The 48-year-old widow now survives on what her aged parents and siblings earn.

When Migrants-Rights.org met Joomaila at her thatched-roof home in Kerala, she was getting ready to travel the northern part of the state to work as a midwife and earn some money for survival.

“Sometimes, they (the family) work and bring in food. And sometimes we all go to sleep hungry. I have lost everything… Before migrating to Saudi Arabia I at least had a rented house and a share of my father’s land. Now, there is nothing,”

“What’s left is a loan, debt, health issues and a daily struggle for food and medicines.”

Joomaila lost everything after fleeing an abusive employer in fear of her life and forfeiting her salary. Continue reading

Sri Lanka’s war widows trafficked as slaves to Gulf

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When Nathkulasinham Nesemalhar took a flight from Colombo to Muscat in March she believed the boarding pass she clutched in her hand was her golden ticket to a better life after decades of war where she lost everything, including her husband.

The 54-year-old widow from Sri Lanka’s former war zone had been promised work as a maid for an affluent family in the Gulf state of Oman. She would get a nice room, decent working hours and 30,000 rupees ($150) a month – enough to pay off her debts.

But Nesemalhar’s dream soon turned into a nightmare. She found herself enslaved with other women in a dimly-lit room with no ventilation, miles from Muscat. She was taken out daily, sent to different homes to clean, and then locked up again at night. Continue reading

The embargo of Qatar is hurting foreign workers more than Qatari citizens

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When Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates led the imposition of a political and economic blockade on Qatar last month, there were immediate, far-reaching consequences: Flights were canceled and rerouted, Qatari citizens were expelled from other Arab states of the Persian Gulf, shipping routes were closed and airspace was suddenly off-limits to Qatar’s pilots. But the blockade may have the biggest effect on Qatar’s largest — and most overlooked — population: foreign migrant workers, who make up about 90 percent of the country’s population.
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Pakistan’s Deported Masses

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“That hell,” was a windowless, dark cell in Brooklyn that Anser Mehmood, a Pakistani truck driver, had inhabited alone for four months in 2001.

Mehmood was a father to four children, at the time living in the port city of Bayonne, New Jersey on the Atlantic coastline. Guards surveilled him night and day from a computer monitor, watching his morose face harshly animated under the fluorescent lights. Continue reading

Never heard from again

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Hundreds of Nepali migrant workers never return home, not even in coffins. They simply disappear.

There are plenty of stories about the high mortality rate of Nepali workers abroad, or migrants being cheated by recruiters. Less well known is the fact that many Nepalis simply disappear while working abroad.

The Gulf countries and Malaysia have become a black hole for hundreds of migrant workers who have vanished without trace over the years. Their families are helpless, and do not know whether their loved ones are dead or alive. The government is of no help.

Since it started monitoring in 2009 the Foreign Employment Promotion Board has records of 5,000 Nepalis who have died abroad. But it does not have numbers for the missing. Continue reading

Migrant Workers in the Gulf Feel Pinch of Falling Oil Prices

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A labour camp in Dubai. Workers are allocated sleeping quarters based on nationality, and the number of occupants may be as high as eight per room. Credit: S. Irfan Ahmed/IPS

In the Al Quoz industrial area of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), a number of medium and large-sized buses can be spotted transporting workers clad in company uniforms to distant worksites early in the morning. In the evening or, in certain cases, late at night, these workers are brought back to labour camps in the same buses.

At the camps, the migrant workers barely have time to rest before the next workday. They huddle inside small, dingy quarters and the number of occupants may rise up to eight per room. With their belongings stuffed into every corner, they hardly have space to move and are vulnerable to catch infections from each other. Their day starts too early as they have to cook their food to carry to the site and ends late due to long journeys amid frequent traffic jams. 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