Indian migrant workers speak of their suffering in Qatar

The Qatari flag is seen at a park near Doha Corniche, in Doha, Qatar . (REUTERS/File Photo)
Updated 06 August 2018
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Indian migrant workers speak of their suffering in Qatar

  • Doha returnee: 'My ordeal started from the day I landed'
  • Company involved in construction of facilities for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar collapsed recently

NEW DELHI: It has been more than four years since Laxmi Reddy last saw her husband Ramesh Reddy, who went to Qatar in 2014 from Mosra village in the southern Indian state of Telangana.

“When he reached Qatar, he called me up from the airport. A few days later, he rang me again,” said Laxmi. 

“A month later when he called me, he was very distraught and said it’s very difficult for him to sustain the working conditions. After that, I never heard from him,” she added, sobbing.

“I don’t know anyone. The local agent is helpless. I’m an illiterate woman and don’t know how to go about finding him,” said Laxmi, who ekes out a living working on a farm.

“I want to reach out to the government, but no one in the village is capable enough to guide me,” she added.

“He was quite happy in Bahrain, where he spent four years. The handsome money he got from there helped us build a new house, but Qatar has ruined our lives.”

Patkuri Basanth Reddy, head of the Gulf Migrant Workers’ Welfare Association in Telangana, tried to help Laxmi a couple of years ago. 

He met the local government and contacted the Indian Embassy in Qatar, but “the case couldn’t move further,” he said.

“I tried my level best to ameliorate Laxmi’s suffering. It’s really a matter of concern how the man disappeared,” added Patkuri, who has worked in the Gulf, and for many years has been helping laborers facing difficult conditions in the region.

“I’m planning to meet the Indian foreign minister, Sushma Swaraj, with a list of individuals who are missing, not only in Qatar but also other Gulf countries.”

Shravan Kumar returned to India in June, having been a migrant worker in Qatar. 

He said he is still in “disbelief” that he survived two years there, his “ordeal” having started from the day he landed.

“The guy who came to pick me up at the airport took my passport and other documents, and I was put in a small room where 16 workers were already staying,” Kumar added.

“Instead of eight hours, as I was promised, I was made to work 12 hours per day. After work, I was asked to confine myself to my room, without being given liberty to roam around and interact with people freely,” he said. 

“The packaging company where I was working used to treat its employees very shabbily. Within two months I started feeling worn out, and the lack of a proper salary forced me to leave the company,” he added. 

“Then I approached the Indian Embassy, which gave me 600 Qatari riyals ($165). With that money, I survived for the next year,” Kumar said.

“I was on the verge of dying because of the harsh working conditions and lack of proper facilities for workers in Qatar. The day I landed in India, I got a new lease of life.”

In a letter obtained by Arab News, which is addressed to the Indian Embassy in Qatar and is circulating among people in the southern Indian state of Kerala, 650 expats have asked the embassy to rescue them.

“For the last four months, we are not getting enough food, water, electricity and salary,” said the letter, which was purportedly written last month.

It added that the HKH General Contracting Co. has not renewed laborers’ visas for nearly a year, so “we are not able to look for other options outside the company. We are not even able to purchase food items from shops.”

The company, which had been involved in construction for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar, collapsed recently.

Dr. Mohammed Aleem, who deals with labor and community welfare at the Indian Embassy in Qatar, refused to comment when contacted by Arab News, saying he is not authorized to speak to the media about the issue. Ambassador P. Kumaran was not immediately available for comment.


UN chief proposes options to protect Palestinians

Updated 18 August 2018
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UN chief proposes options to protect Palestinians

UNITED NATIONS: UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Friday presented four options aimed at boosting the protection of Palestinians in Israeli-occupied territories, from sending UN rights monitors and unarmed observers to deploying a military or police force under UN mandate.
The proposals were contained in a report requested by the General Assembly in response to a surge of violence in Gaza, where 171 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire since late March.
The UN chief stressed that for each of the options, cooperation by Israel and the Palestinians would be necessary. It remained unlikely however that Israel would agree to the proposals.
In the 14-page report, Guterres proposed:
• Providing a “more robust UN presence on the ground” with rights monitors and political officers to report on the situation.
• Pouring in more UN humanitarian and development aid to “ensure the well-being of the population.”
• Creating a civilian observer mission that would be present in sensitive areas such as checkpoints and near Israeli settlements, with a mandate to report on protection issues.
• Deploying an armed military or police force, under a UN mandate, to provide physical protection to Palestinian civilians.
A UN mandate for a protection force would require a decision from the Security Council, where the United States could use its veto power to block a measure opposed by Israel.
A small European-staffed observer mission was deployed in the West Bank city of Hebron in 1994, but Israel has since rejected calls for an international presence in flashpoint areas.
In the report, Guterres said the United Nations was already undertaking many protection initiatives but that “these measures fall short” of the concerns raised in a General Assembly resolution adopted in June.
In that measure, the 193-nation assembly condemned Israel for Palestinian deaths in Gaza and tasked Guterres with the drafting of proposals for “an international protection mechanism” for the Palestinians.
Guterres argued that a political solution to the conflict was needed to address the safety of Palestinians but that “until such a solution is achieved, member-states may further explore all practical and feasible measures that will significantly improve the protection of the Palestinian civilian population.”
“Such measures would also improve the security of Israeli civilians.”
On Friday, Israeli troops shot dead two Palestinians taking part in protests along the Gaza border and 270 other Palestinians were wounded.
Israel has defended its use of live ammunition in Gaza by invoking its right to self-defense. One Israeli soldier was shot dead by a Palestinian sniper in July.
“The targeting of civilians, particularly children, is unacceptable,” Guterres said in the report, adding that “those responsible for violations of international humanitarian law must be held accountable.”
UN efforts to ensure the well-being of Palestinians must strengthened, he added, singling out the funding crisis at the UN’s Palestinian refugee agency UNRWA as being “of particular concern.”
UNRWA is facing a major budget shortfall after President Donald Trump’s administration decided to withhold its contribution to the agency.
The report released to all UN member-states comes amid a vacuum in Middle East peace efforts as European and other big powers await a peace plan from the Trump administration that has been under discussion for months.
UN diplomats have recently begun questioning whether the US peace plan will ever materialize.
The United Nations has warned that a new war could explode in Gaza.
Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza, including its Hamas rulers, have fought three wars since 2008.