Indian nurses duped into travelling to the UAE for non-existent jobs have been thrown a lifeline with the offer of full-time work.
VPS Healthcare, one of the nation’s largest healthcare providers, has found jobs for 90 Indian nurses stranded in the Emirates.
They were attracted to the country for roles in a Covid-19 vaccination centre through a bogus recruiter.
Of those, 41 nurses who arrived in March have been employed and 49 are awaiting clearance to take up positions at 10 hospitals in the country.
Some nurses paid up to Dh10,000 in agency fees before leaving India to start a new life in the UAE, only to find their job offer was fake and they had no money left to return home.
One of those was Ambily Balakrishnan, from Kottayam in Kerala, who was swindled alongside her sister, Asha.
“I was working as a registered nurse in a leading hospital in Kerala,” she said.
“I came to the UAE with high hopes but was shocked when I found out about the scam. I paid 200,000 rupees (Dh10,000) to the recruitment agency.
“They have not returned us a single penny.
“I cannot go back to India with empty hands as my family is struggling to pay back the money we arranged to pay the agent.
“This job has come as a blessing to me. I am confident that I can clear the procedures to obtain the medical licence.
“I’m happy to be back at work when our services are very much required for the community because of the pandemic.”
Many had quit jobs in India to take up new opportunities in the UAE, lured by the promise of a Dh4,500 monthly salary.
Cons proliferate during the pandemic
Fake recruiters have sought to exploit the pandemic by offering bogus jobs to those who have lost work during the crisis.
The healthcare sector has been particularly a soft target and most affected owing to demand for frontline nurses around the world.
Jobseekers are advised to avoid agencies that demand fees are paid in cash or into personal bank accounts.
In September, Dubai Police arrested members of a gang running a fake recruitment agency that exploited 150 people looking for work.
The men posted bogus ads on social media, offering highly paid jobs for a Dh3,000 finder’s fee.
Officials warned those hunting for work to look out for job offers paying above-average salaries.
Many of the nurses turned to health authorities and private companies for help, submitting CVs and letters appealing for work.
“What happened was unbelievable as the agents were not willing to return our money,” said Asha Balakrishnan.
“The recruiting company had made big promises in their social media ads.
“They said we would be able to get work at the vaccination centre immediately after the quarantine period, and the licence was not an issue.
“They tricked all of us. When we asked 20 days later, they had nothing to say about the job.
“So we applied to VPS Healthcare and other healthcare groups on our own.”
VPS Healthcare stepped in to lend a helping hand after its managing director Dr Shamsheer Vayalil learnt about the case.
The hospital group had been receiving job applications and inquiries from nurses for the past four weeks.
Dr Vayalil instructed his team to provide all possible assistance to the qualified trainee nurses to obtain full licences, enabling them to get to work as soon as possible after completing a brief interview process.
Those without a valid medical licences will join as patient aides or service assistants.
“We have given special consideration to eligible healthcare workers who have been trapped for a long time and facing financial issues,” said Sanjai Kumar, chief human resources officer at VPS Healthcare.
“We will be initiating and assisting them in processing Department of Health and Dubai Health Authority Licences.
“In addition to those who had already joined us, 49 more will be joining our medical team upon issuance of an employment visa.
“All the relevant expenses, including their PCR test and other regulatory expenses, are being taken care of by VPS Healthcare as a special case.”