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    » 11/08/2011, 00.00

    INDIA – MIDDLE EAST

    Indian migrant workers exploited and enslaved in Arab countries



    More than a million Indians live in the Gulf region. Often, employers take away their papers, including residency permits, forcing them to live as illegal aliens. Each year, thousands of migrants go missing. A Kerala TV station airs their cases and helps families find their loved ones.
    Mumbai (AsiaNews/ Agencies) – More than a million Indians live and work in the Gulf region. Many of them are exploited or forced to live in slave-like condition, undocumented. According to a recent report by Al-Jazeera, thousands of migrant workers have gone missing after their visas expired. Often, employers take away their passports in order to force them to work underground without an opportunity to go home and with the constant danger of being arrested by police.

    For the past 11 years, Rafeek Ravuther has directed and produced Pravasi Lokam or "Migrants World’, a weekly programme broadcast on Kairali TV, a Malayalam-language station based in Kerala, southern India. In it, he tells the story of the hardships Indian workers face in Arab countries. His programme also helps families find their missing relatives.

    For millions of migrants from Kerala working in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates and Oman, Pravasi Lokam has become a must-see programme. Most of its protagonists are men, husband and sons who simply go missing.

    Over the past 30 years, millions of Indian women have become “Gulf wives”, left to raise their children on their own and entirely dependent on remittances from their overseas spouses.

    When things go wrong, these women have nowhere to turn and no safety net to fall back on. Among the stories told one stands out, that of Govindan Gopalakrishnan who disappeared 23 years ago.

    In 1983, Govindan left Kerala for Bahrain to work as a carpenter. Instead, when he arrived he was forced to work as a domestic servant. After two years he fled his Arab sponsor and ended up working on a camel farm deep in the desert of Bahrain. However, his original Arab sponsor filed charges against him and he eventually ended up in jail.

    It was his second employer at the camel farm that got Gopalakrishnan out of jail and took him back to work. There he stayed for years, unable to contact his family on his meagre salary or send money home.

    He toiled every day for 19 years, not knowing that he was undocumented for most of them. His second Arab sponsor at the camel farm refused to release him or allow him to visit his family. It was not until he was too old and frail, in his 60s, that his employer decide to let him go.

    In 2006, the Pravasi Lokam team got in touch with his family. After negotiations with Bahraini authorities and with the help of Keralite community in Bahrain, US$ 4,370 were raised to pay a fine for unpaid immigration fees. Now, friends and well-wishers are raising money to buy him a plane ticket to come home.

    The programme has 17 representatives in the Gulf who can be contacted for help. Their phone numbers and contact details are scrolled across the screen as missing cases are reported.

    The programme has aired more than 1,300 cases since it began, but has only been able to reunite around 320 families.
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    See also

    22/02/2011 BAHRAIN
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    07/09/2004 SAUDI ARABIA
    A catacomb Church? Perhaps, but one that is alive and well . . . and universal

    Interview with Mgr Paul Hinder, Auxiliary Bishop of Arabia.



    09/01/2015 NEPAL
    Pope's message for peace useful to free Nepali slaves in Arab Gulf
    Nepali authorities share Francis' position on "slave labour" and hope to influence Kuwaiti authorities who have blocked the repatriation of 135 Nepali women. Malaysia, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and UAE are the most common destinations for unskilled migrant workers, the first victims of human trafficking.

    04/09/2008 GULF – IRAN
    Gulf Council backs UAE against Iran
    Six Arab countries call on Tehran to remove illegally built offices on Abu Musa Island and open talks over sovereignty. Iran’s reply is full of scorn.

    25/11/2006 BAHRAIN
    For the first time all citizens to vote for parliament
    In the 2002 elections widespread protest led to a low turnout. This year's campaign saw intense rivalry between Sunnis and Shiites. Whatever happens experts believe the country will be different. All candidates pledge change.



    Editor's choices

    CHINA - VATICAN
    Vatican silence over Shanghai’s Mgr Ma Daqin causing confusion and controversy

    Bernardo Cervellera

    For some, Mgr Ma’s blog post praising the Patriotic Association and acknowledging his mistakes is nothing but “dirt”. For others, he chose humiliation for the “sake of his diocese”. Many wonder why the Holy See has remained silent about the article’s content and the bishop’s persecution. Some suspect the Vatican views the episode in positive terms. Yet, the Ma Daqin affair raises a major question. Has Benedict XVI’s Letter to Chinese Catholics (which describes the Patriotic Association as “incompatible with Catholic doctrine”) been abolished? If it has, who did it? A journey of compromises without truth is full of risks.


    CHINA – VATICAN
    Mgr Ma Daqin: the text of his “confession”

    Mons. Taddeo Ma Daqin

    Four years after quitting the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association, the bishop of Shanghai “admits” his faults on his blog, praising the organisation that controls the Church. We publish his article, almost in its entirety. Translation by AsiaNews.


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