Category Archives: Pakistan

How CPEC can offer migrant workers a better dream

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Ghulam Muhammad, 28, lives in Kot Radha Kishan outside of Lahore. Not long ago, he was sitting in his home thinking “If I can make it to Dubai, it can make a difference in my life. My younger siblings might become doctors or engineers.” He comes from a family of nine, with five brothers and two sisters.

Muhammad remembers the hunger and poverty that clung to their home and prevented his siblings from acquiring an education; his own father was a labourer who struggled to feed a family of nine mouths. Continue reading

Difficult life of Pakistani migrant workers in UAE

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Migrant workers from Pakistan’s villages arrive in the oil rich country UAE with dreams of making good money to send home. They work tirelessly for a meagre salary which is often not paid on time. These migrant labourers struggle with depression and anxiety and the fear that their passports will be confiscated. They live difficult lives in Dubai and Sharjah where media is not encouraged to report on the ground reality. The labourers are often confined and their new dream is to make it back home to Pakistan to work on the China Pakistan Economic Corridor – which presents new opportunities for businesses and jobs – and for prosperous lives.

Pakistani migrant workers in UAE dream returning home for decent job

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Migrant workers toil in the sweltering heat; they do not get their wages on time and they live in dismal conditions. Their labour is exploited as they work for 10 to 12 hours a day instead of the prescribed 8 hours. The workers don’t get clean water for drinking. This is happening in Dubai, Sharjah and Ajman. They now aspire to get a decent job back home. Few migrant workers are happy in the UAE where they now understand the value of home. For the sake of the welfare of their families, they struggle to cope despite the hardships. They believe the China Pakistan Economic Corridor will present new opportunities for work so they can lead better lives.

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

Migrating from traditional roles

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People move from one country to the other primarily for better economic opportunities. No doubt it is not an easy option to leave your family and head for a destination where you have to work like machines and go through excessive mental stress.

Official figures show that a total of 5.4 million Pakistani workers went overseas for employment from 2003 to 2015. Around 97 per cent of these went to Gulf Corporation Council (GCC) countries including Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Qatar. The contributions of these labour migrants are highlighted from time to time and the foreign remittances they send home are termed to be a lifeline for the country’s economy. During the year 2015-2016, Pakistani expatriates sent foreign remittances worth $19.9 billion which is not small a figure. Continue reading

Rethinking labour migration

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Pakistan has long been a major exporter of human resource, primarily to the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries including Saudi Arabia, UAE and Qatar, and receives substantial foreign remittances sent by the expatriates every year. Opportunities opened up for Pakistani workers in the Gulf region soon after the boom in the oil sector and the development that followed in 1970s.

Data shows that this export of human resource continues. From 2003 to 2015, a total of 5.4 million Pakistani workers went overseas for employment, of which around 97 percent headed to the GCC region. During FY2015-2016, the foreign remittances sent by overseas Pakistanis were around $19.9 billion, which close to what was earned through exports of goods and services from the country. The highest share comes obviously from those working in Saudi Arabia and the UAE as these countries host nearly 93 percent of all Pakistani workers who have gone abroad for work. 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