Sour dreams, 1 AP died in the Gulf every 3 days in 1.7 years

VIJAYAWADA: a migrant worker from Andhra Pradesh died almost every three days in the Middle East between January 16, 2018, and August 22, 2019. Data compiled by the Andhra Pradesh Non-Resident Telugu Society (APNRT), a government agency working for the welfare of NRIs, has revealed that 174 NRIs from the state came home in coffins during that period.

Of these, 121 bodies or 70% were only from Kuwait. It is suspected that many of them are suicides caused by hunger, extreme weather conditions and, in some cases, ill-treatment and torture at the hands of their employers.

APNRT members attribute the deaths to the sponsorship system of foreign workers of the Gulf or Kafeel Cooperation Council, under which employers can supervise unskilled workers. Members allege that this has led some of the workers to suicide. The majority of unskilled workers are engaged in construction. According to Kafeel or, employers have the responsibility to control the visa and legal status of workers. Most employers take passports from workers until the contract is completed, leaving many stranded for years.

The authorities explained that a considerable number of workers in the East and West Godavari districts are being taken by agents to Kuwait on a visitor's visa and then handed over to employers for an insignificant salary compared to the country's minimum wage policy.

Workers without permission were stranded for years

K Ravanamma explains that her husband Ravi Naik tried to return home in 2016 after working tirelessly for three years. “He didn't get any license or even a decent meal. He had no family and friends with whom he could speak. He ended his life only a few months after he told me he would return, ”Ravanamma said. At the time of his death, Ravi was only 28 years old.

Ravi is not alone. Sujana Tulasi, 35, of Attili Mandal in West Godavari, was trapped for six months in Kuwait in 2017 after suffering serious injuries in a road accident before finally returning to India with several bruises and mental agony.

“Workers hired under the Kafeel scheme obtain work permits. But a large number of people trapped without a permit remain stranded for years without hope of returning and ending up committing suicide or death due to torture, ”explained an APNRT official, who is part of the Migrant Resource Center.

There have been reports of suicides and even murders in the last two decades, but there has been no visible outrage towards his suffering in Kuwait.

As expected, Kuwait ranks second after the United Arab Emirates in terms of the number of illegal Andhra workers who received amnesty. APNRT helped 117 of those workers and spent Rs 15.4 lakh to allow them to obtain amnesty between January 2018 and April 2018. Around 234 AP residents living in the United Arab Emirates received amnesty between August 1 and 31 December 2018, after spending Rs 62 lakh.