Swathi.V

HYDERABAD: Ayesha Sultana is back at last. Back in her two-room dwelling at Kalyani Nawab ki Deodi near Talabkatta, she heaves a sigh of relief recounting her harrowing experiences in Saudi Arabia, the dreamland-turned-nightmare (refer to the news story ‘Left high and dry on streets of Jeddah’ on November 28, 2009). “A Saudi journalist approached me after I got my passport back. Through him I told to all my compatriots, ‘beg in home country, but never step in here illegally’,” she recalled sitting close to her ailing child for whom she crossed the oceans.

One among the many illegal immigrants stranded in Saudi as ‘Khaddama’(domestic help), she escaped from her workplace after four months with another city woman Fatima, and reached the Indian Consulate at Jeddah. However, her passport remained held up with the agency that deployed her arbitrarily at different houses, with no payment.

“We stayed for 25 days in an open ground at Jeddah, exposing ourselves to all kinds of perils. The Jeddah floods happened when we were there. Many Good Samaritans helped us with food, clothes and other needs,” she recounts, and feels sad when reminded of Fatima who remained behind.

‘Pushed’ to Riyadh illegally from Lucknow, she was deployed by the agency to serve an Arab family there. Pushing here refers to a process adopted by immigration racketeers who bribe officials to condone the illegal immigration.

No food

“I worked there for a month with virtually no food. The family of kafil (the employer) would sleep the whole day and go out during evenings to return only after midnight. After cleaning up the three-storied house, I would go to bed hungry,” Ayesha recounts.

Upon not receiving any payment after a month, she insisted on going back to India. She was sent back to the agency office, which exploited hundreds of poor people from India and Indonesia by making them work without salary. The employers would sign a contract and pay directly to the agent.

“It is slave trade out there. People would be brought and sent in hordes, just like animals.

You wouldn’t even know where you were going. Anybody remaining at the agency office had to work day and night at the agent Abu Khalid’s house.

They would rummage and confiscate all the money and valuables before sending us to another place,” she says.

She and Fatima were eventually sent to another employer at Makkah from where both escaped to Jeddah.