‘Condition of Indians working as domestic help in West Asia distressing’

Special Correspondent

Complaints include torture, non-payment of salary and filing of false cases

Goa Commissioner for NRI Affairs Eduardo Faleiro to a submit report

‘Many of the problems faced by the workers are created by recruiting agents’

Panaji: Stating that the condition of Indians working as domestic help in some of the West Asian countries is distressing, Goa Commissioner for NRI Affairs Eduardo Faleiro on Monday hoped that the Union Government would provide a system similar to that of the Philippines to safeguard the dignity and safety of such workers.

Mr. Faleiro, former Minister for External Affairs, was addressing presspersons here on his return from a tour of Kuwait and Qatar. The purpose of his visit was to meet Goan expatriates, identify their grievances and study the labour market there.

Elaborating on the complaints about distressing condition of such workers from India, he said there were complaints of torture and abuse, non-payment of salary for several months and filing of false cases against them.

“Many of the local people appear to consider a domestic help as a commodity to be used and abused at will,” Mr. Faleiro said. He said, “Indian, including Goan, expatriates are generally a happy and contented lot. The cases mentioned above may be exceptions rather than the rule. There are, however, too many such exceptions and the Government cannot remain unconcerned about them.”

According to official statistics, Indian communities in Kuwait and Qatar number around 6 lakh and 2 lakh people, respectively. The Goan community is estimated to be more than 40,000 in Kuwait and about 9,000 in Qatar.

Mr. Faleiro said that a significant percentage of Indian expatriates, including a few Goans, were unskilled and semi-skilled workers who were not covered by the Labour laws of the Gulf countries. Some of them complained of non-payment or delay in payment of wages and harsh living conditions, substitution of contracts, retention of passports, cheating, physical exploitation, etc.

The Commissioner would meet the Ministers of External Affairs and Overseas Indian Affairs and submit to them his report of the tour of the Gulf countries after he visits Bahrain, Oman and the UAE in December.

“Many of the problems troubling our unskilled and semi-skilled expatriates are created by recruiting agents,” Mr. Faleiro said.

In April last, he brought to the notice of the Minister of Overseas Indian Affairs 17 such spurious recruiting agencies operating in Goa and the Goa Police were investigating these cases, he said. He disclosed plans to draft a law to deal with unregistered agents and middlemen operating in Goa and to punish recruiting agencies involved in illegal emigration.

Mr. Faleiro said emigration laws needed to be amended with emphasis on regulation and deterrent punishment. The Union Government was in the process of amending the Emigration Act for this purpose, he added.

Mr. Faleiro said during his tour, he was informed that some male workers were taken by their employers to Saudi Arabia and abandoned in the desert without proper papers, food and water and medical attention. It appeared that the law of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) allowed the citizen of a member country to take his employee to another member country to work in his estate. The GCC law did not make it mandatory for the employer to bring the employee back. This lacuna in the law caused problems, Mr. Faleiro said.

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