Indian work migrants who have escaped the abuse and torture at the hands of their Saudi employers often end up locked up at Shumaisy Deportation Centre in Riyadh or in a Saudi jail if the Saudi employer reports a serious (often malicious) allegation against the Indian employee to avenge the employee for running away.
The Saudi authorities notify the Indian Mission of the fact that their national has been detained. It is then for the Indian Mission to make arrangements to repatriate their national back to India. Depending on whether the migrant worker has his passport, it may take several months for him to return to India whilst the Indian Mission gather the necessary documents, including an ‘out pass’ which requires cooperation of the former Saudi employer in providing authorisation for the migrant worker to leave the country.
If the migrant worker is facing criminal charges, then the duration of his stay in Saudi Arabia will depend upon outcome of his eventual trial which may take months or even years.
The conditions at Shumaisy Deportation Centre are appalling and inhumane. Over 400 Indian nationals are currently accommodated in a 40 by 40 ft. hall, without any bedding or seating provisions. The men sleep on the floor. There is no privacy and the conditions are unhygienic. The hall does not have any windows or access to fresh air. The air conditioning has resulted in the men developing respiratory problems. The men do not have access to medical services. No medical provision appears to exist.
The deportation centre is run by the Saudi authorities. The detained work migrants are served with poor quality, often stale food. A typical meal will include what is described as ‘dal’ which is nothing more than water containing turmeric powder and black pepper served with dry, stale bread.
The men are provided with limited access to water to drink. They can buy water from a Saudi supplier based in the deportation centre however, most of the migrant workers cannot afford to buy these basic provision. Many of the work migrants have had to flee from abuse and torture at short notice without their personal effects and without pay. Most of the men in the detention have not been paid for eight to nine months or not at all despite having worked for their Saudi employers for several months; often they have not been paid since commencement of their ‘employment’ in Saudi Arabia. Accordingly, they do not have the means to buy fresh safe drinking water or any decent food within the detention compound where a number of the migrants may spend upto a year before they are repatriated.
Access to drinking water, washing up facilities and general sanitation at the detention centre are appalling, inhumane which tantamount to torture.
During the detention, the Saudi staff at the centre randomly phyisically and verbally attack the migrant workers. They seem to think it is acceptable to use the men as punch bags. This abusive, inhumane treatment is absolutely untenable and amounts to torture. The Indian authorities must confront and challenge the Saudi authorities in relation to this bullying.
The Indian authorities should process the repatriation of these men expeditiously and without delay and in the meantime, intervene to provide food,water as well medial assessment and treatment to their fellow nationals whilst they wait to be repatriated.
The Indian migrants have a raw deal from the outset of their plans to work abroad; their decision to move abroad is because of the lack of opportunities in their home State in India. There is wholesale failure by the authorities to ascertain as to why there is a mass exodus leaving the country and why they do not have the opportunities to work in their own country.
After the decision to work abroad, the work migrants then exploited by the so called ‘recruitment agents’ who are unqualified and unregulated motivated by financial gain from securing a post for the work migrant. Unlike the practice elsewhere, in India the prospective employees are required to pay a few of several thousand rupees to the agent in order to secure a post abroad. The prospective migrant worker will often have to take out a loan and/or sell their valuable land in order to pay the agent.
These ‘agents’ do not and are not required to keep records , copies of the agency/employment contracts.
The migrants’ plight is further exacerbated by their lack of understanding and investigation of the countries they are travelling to, not being aware of their rights and unable to recognise that their human rights are being breached. This is partly due to illiteracy and due to the desperate need to earn a decent living in return for a living wage which sadly is denied in their birth country.
When they reach their work destinations in particularly in the Gulf States, these migrant workers are accommodated in poor, basic and sometimes dangerous buildings. Their passports are confiscated by their employer; they are expected to work long hours for pay that is lower than the natives of the country would expect to earn. The migrant workers are denied holidays. Nyaya UK is in receipt of reports of the migrant workers been subjected to racial and religious discrimination and prejudice, including reports of migrant workers put under pressure to change their faith. All this is in addition to the migrant workers being subjected to serious phyisical assaults and mental torture.
Another typical example of abuse suffered by these migrant workers as explained by Balwinder Singh, one of the migrant works currently in the detention centre involves sponsoring an Indian natiional to work as a personal driver for a family in Saudi Arabia. However, when the migrant worker moves to Saudi Arabia, they are put under pressure and forced to drive trucks, lorries and HGVs – vehicles which they are not qualified, licensed or insured to drive and it is of course unlawful. Further, despite being initially employed as a personal driver, the migrant worker is expected to enter a life of servitude for the employer and his family.
Balwinder Singh went on to explain, that the post he accepted was for the role of a ‘personal driver’ for a family in Saudi Arabia. His female employer in addition to his personal driver role, expected him to do construction work on a property that she is having built. Balwinder refused to do the construction work and realising that he could no longer wanted to work for her, Balwinder gave his employer notice to terminate his employment. The employer insisted that Balwinder pays her 5,000 riyal (about £856) and upon payment, she will ‘release’ Balwinder Singh from his employment contract. Balwinder Singh explained to her, that he did not have the money demanded by her. He requested the return of his passport which had been confiscated upon his arrival and commencement of his employment. Balwinder Singh was bullied by his employer following his refusal to work on her construction project. His employer reported Balwinder to the Police which resulted in him being referred to the detention centre. His employer refused to return his passport to him and refused to pay the overdue income due to him.
Their attempts to report their concerns to the Indian Embassy are often dismissed and the migrants are berated for travelling abroad in the first place!
The lucky ones are those in the minority, who return to their families in India unharmed, with their dignity and self respect in tact.