Sameera wants to return: In 6 audio clips, the story of an Indian worker trapped in Abu Dhabi

Published by:

A 27-year-old domestic worker, Sameera*, from Bengaluru, is stuck in Abu Dhabi after she escaped from an employer who is said to have been unbearably exploitative. On August 3, she somehow escaped the house, and reached the Embassy of India, UAE, Abu Dhabi.

But when officials there turned her away, she was caught by her recruiting agency. They locked her in a kitchen with four other women workers from the Philippines, Ethiopia and Indonesia.

Beaten, verbally abused and kept on camera surveillance for five days, the women were desperate to return home. Their only hope was a mobile phone Sameera had hidden in her handbag. From this, she sent a flurry of frantic voice messages on Whatsapp to two friends in Bengaluru – lawyer Darshana Mitra and social worker Kaveri Medappa. Continue reading

Sri Lanka’s war widows trafficked as slaves to Gulf

Published by:

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

Published by:

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.
Continue reading

Pakistan’s Deported Masses

Published by:

“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

Majority who encounter problem in foreign land are those migrated without registering with govt: FEM Secretary GS Withanage

Published by:

The foreign employment sector is still the largest foreign exchange earner of the country. On an average, 250,000 persons annually migrate to foreign countries seeking better employment. Of the total number of Sri Lankans working abroad over 90% are employed in Middle Eastern countries, according to the Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment.

Commenting on the current situation of the foreign employment, Foreign Employment Ministry Secretary G.S. Withanage says the Government is paying more attention to promote foreign employment for skilled and professional categories.

In an interview with the Dailymirror, Mr. Withanage pointed out that only 2-3 % of the entire labour migration force have faced serious negative issues. “Unfortunately a few negative cases get highlighted in the media ignoring the 97% which are successful,” he pointed out. Continue reading

Qatar’s Struggle to Reform Labor Laws

Published by:

On March 22, the International Labor Organization (ILO) moved to give Qatar until November to reform its laws governing migrant labor. This builds on an ongoing investigation following a complaint lodged with the ILO in 2016 that workers are drawn into “forced labor.” The ILO will determine if Qatar’s labor laws contravene the forced labor convention, which Qatar ratified in 1998, possibly subjecting the Gulf state to scrutiny by a commission of inquiry.

Continue reading

Domestic flights

Published by:

In early 2004, Sushila Karki Pyakurel was on her way to Israel to work as a caretaker when she met a government official in Bangkok, en route to South Korea, for a sports programme. As soon as the man realised that she was headed for the Middle East all by herself, he asked her to return home immediately. The region was dangerous, he said, and he was willing to pay for her flight back home.

Sushila thought about the offer. She had already had qualms about the idea of working in a distant country. For months she had debated whether it was wise to leave behind her three-year-old son in order to take care of an unknown elderly in Israel. Continue reading

Never heard from again

Published by:

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

Photo Essay: Migrant Workers in Jordan’s Garment Industry

Published by:

South Asian migrant workers in a garment factory in Jordan. Photo by Sabrina Toppa.

Over the past twenty years, Jordan has emerged as a critical node in the global apparel supply chain, which in Jordan employs more than 60,000 workers. Almost 70 percent of the kingdom’s garment employees are female foreign workers from South Asian countries like Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Nepal. Yet while the kingdom offers comparatively favorable labor laws for the region, many of these migrant workers are still legally and economically vulnerable. Continue reading