A harrowing tale of human trafficking

Jacinta Mendonca

Jacinta Mendonca  

When Jacinta Mendonca left her home in Mudrangady near Karkala 14 months ago for a job in Qatar, her only thought was to earn enough to help educate her three children. But what followed was an ordeal she neither expected nor was prepared for.

The 42-year-old, finally reunited with her family on Friday night, recounted what she went through at her employer’s house at Yanbu in Saudi Arabia, here on Saturday. She was made to work for 16 hours a day in the three mansions where her employer’s three wives and 28 children lived. This took a severe toll on her health, but she was compelled to continue working.

It was after the death of her husband last year that Ms. Mendonca, looking for a job, came upon an advertisement for a home nurse for an Indian family in Qatar. She contacted the Mumbai-based recruitment agency, headed by Shabaz Khan, who assured her that she would be paid ₹25,000 a month.

The agent promised he would arrange for her passport and the visa through his representative in Mangaluru. Ms. Mendonca made her journey to Mumbai and was then taken to Dubai via Goa and Delhi on June 10, 2016, along with two other women. To her horror, on landing, she discovered that she had been taken to Yanbu, Saudi Arabia, instead of Qatar. Her plea to her employer to allow her to return fell on deaf ears. She tried to flee from her employer’s house on November 28, 2016. A neighbour, instead of taking her to the Indian embassy, led her to the police station, and she was returned to her employer. “That night, I was beaten black and blue in the house,” Ms. Mendonca recalled.

Her employer told her that the agents who sent Ms. Mendonca to Saudi Arabia had taken 24,000 SAR (Saudi Arabian Riyals) from him, and he would allow her to return home only if the entire amount was repaid.

In December 2016, she got lucky. Ms. Mendonca managed to contact her children in Mudrangady with the help of a driver. Her children were advised by the local church to contact the Human Rights Protection Foundation (HRPF). Ravindranath Shanbhag, president of HRPF, said the children had no details, except some phone numbers. In time the HRPF found out that Ms. Mendonca had gone to Saudi on a visiting visa of 90 days.

The visa was arranged by a Delhi-based travel agency, blacklisted by the Ministry of External Affairs. “This led us to suspect that it could be a case of human trafficking,” said Dr. Shanbhag. The HRPF then contacted the Ministry of External Affairs, the Indian embassy, and the NRI Forum in Riyadh. There was every possibility of Ms. Mendonca’s arrest and imprisonment because of the duration of the visa.

But the NRI Forum was able to gather details of the case and negotiated with Ms. Mendonca’s employer to reduce the amount demanded by him. The forum also arranged a work permit for her from the Labour Department, and this facilitated her return home, Dr. Shanbhag said.

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Printable version | Aug 14, 2020 5:37:29 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/a-harrowing-tale-of-human-trafficking/article19744465.ece

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