Embassy shares sorrow of Indian workers lured to UAE by devious recruitment agents

Workers tell of being lied to, locked up and starved after travelling to UAE in search of a better life

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES, August 20 – 2018 :- Navdeep Suri, Ambassador of India talking to media during the press conference about the Kerala floods situation held at the Embassy of India in Abu Dhabi. ( Pawan Singh / The National )  For News. Story by Haneen
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The Indian embassy has issued a stark warning over rogue recruitment agents luring job seekers to the UAE with empty promises of employment.

In a series of thought-provoking videos posted on Twitter, the embassy shared horror stories from Indian workers locked up, lied to, denied food and stripped of cash by unscrupulous scammers.

The social media shock treatment is part of an effort to discourage the 'endemic' problem of Indian workers from arriving in the UAE on tourist visas.

"This is a cautionary message to our workers. It is an endemic problem and we are working with the UAE government in trying to spread awareness that workers should register on our official portal so they will not be taken advantage of," Navdeep Suri, the Indian ambassador told The National.

“When people come on a visit visa, it is utterly out of our control. We don’t know who they are until they get in trouble.”

Men and women from Jalandhar town, in the north to Krishna district in southern India, speak up in short clips about agents who duped them after paying sums of up to 80,000 rupees (Dh4,200) as recruitment and employment visa fees to secure jobs in the UAE.

In videos posted by the embassy over the past week, workers said they managed to flee from apartments they were being held in.

A woman who identified herself as Bhakshinder Kaur, said she travelled from India’s capital Delhi to Sharjah after paying 22,000 rupees (Dh1,155) to an agent.

“They gave me a job in two to three places but I told them I didn’t like the work and wanted to go to India. They said I must pay Dh7,500 to go back. They kept me in a room and didn’t let me leave but I ran away to the embassy,” she said in a video posted on Wednesday.

Ms Kaur did not specify the jobs she was forced to undertake.

Vikram Kumar from western Rajasthan state said he paid an agent in Abu Dhabi 55,000 rupees (Dh2,888).

“He said I would get a job in a good company but there was no job. They kept me locked in a room with no food,” he said.

The embassy in Abu Dhabi and consulate in Dubai has paid for the airfare of workers from the Indian Community Welfare Fund to enable them to return home.

In the Twitter posts, Indian officials have tagged the airport and police headquarters in the workers’ hometowns to directly reach authorities back home.

Skilled and unskilled blue-collar workers often arrive in the UAE on tourist visas after paying cash to agents who promise them high salaries and good jobs.

The UAE government and Indian officials have often warned workers against coming to the UAE without a work visa.

But the lure of well-paid jobs in the hotel and retail sector lures workers to trust agents who convince them that their tourist visas will be converted into work permits once they are employed.

The workers take loans and mortgage family homes and property to pay the agents who cheat them by charging exorbitant amounts as recruitment and employment visa fees.

The men and women are forced to work as maids, security guards or in the construction industry and often paid Dh500 to Dh800, a fraction of what was promised to them.

Others who do not find jobs say they are locked up to pressurise them to take any work available.

Thousands of Indian workers returned home during the visa amnesty scheme in the UAE last year during which visa fines were waived and people were given time to regularise their legal status by authorities.

Mr Suri appealed to workers to use an online registration system, in line with UAE visa laws, to sign up with recruitment agents and employers approved by Indian authorities.

“This route is safer and provides better protection to workers than coming to the UAE on a visit visa and hoping that it gets converted,” he said.

About 135,000 workers came to the UAE last year under the eMigrate scheme that was launched four years ago to streamline the process of hiring employees from India.

Recruitment agents and employers must register with the Indian embassy and declare the terms of the work contract.

This is then verified by Indian officials before the worker enters the UAE.

The embassy also issued an alert asking Indians to inform the embassy or consulate in case of delay in payment of salary by employers in the UAE.