It’s almost an open secret that Indian are often lured to the wealthy Middle Eastern countries with the promise of steady and jobs, only to find, upon landing, that they’re practically trapped as slaves, and forced to work with no pay or under inhumane conditions, with no hope of return. Many people are also promised fake jobs, only to have their passports and documentation confiscated upon arrival to the foreign country, basically ensuring that they have no prospect of seeking justice or returning to their home countries.
Many women who find themselves in these situations face the double brunt of terrible working conditions and the prospect of sexual assault. Women who travel to these countries believing to be employed as housekeepers or cooks often end up trafficked or repeatedly sexually abused by their employers.
A new resource centre, the Indian Workers’ Resource Centre in Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates, will help reduce the risk of migrant workers in the Gulf being promised fake jobs and facing the risk of exploitation. The resource centre will run a 24 hour multi-lingual call centre to offer help and services to workers who are already in such situations, and will also verify job letters to make sure they’re genuine to prevent the possibility of workers coming to the Gulf under false promises. The centre will also offer counselling, and invite workers to camps to educate people about their rights and options.
Given that there are nearly 6 million known Indian workers in different Gulf states, and given the thousands of calls different government bodies and NGOs have received over the years alleging torture, abuse and non-payment of salaries, this unified resource centre could be useful to a lot of Indians, especially women. Given recent news that continued poverty is forcing more women to look for work in the Gulf, it’s heartening to know that more and more mechanisms are being put in place to ensure workers’ safety in these situations.
On an aside, if you’re wondering why the Indian government doesn’t do anything more drastic about this issue, especially considering the number of reports of Indian women being trafficked after being lured to the Gulf with the promise of a job, it’s because the reaction would be more than we can handle. Remember back in 2011, when the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia banned domestic workers from the Philippines after their government demanded higher wages and a set of security measures to be put in place for female workers moving to the kingdom? Millions of Indians depends on Gulf countries for their livelihood, and the government knows it has to tread carefully when dealing with the issues that arise between its workers and wealthy oil-producing nations.