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.


Turkey-backed fighters await ‘zero hour’ to attack Syria’s Manbij

Updated 43 min 31 sec ago
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Turkey-backed fighters await ‘zero hour’ to attack Syria’s Manbij

  • The YPG fear the US withdrawal will open the way for a threatened Turkish attack into northern Syria
  • The YPG have also left Manbij but retain influence over the Kurdish-allied groups

JARABLUS, SYRIA: Opposition commander Adnan Abu Faisal and his army are encamped near the frontline in northern Syria, waiting to launch an offensive on his home city of Manbij.

But they are not the ones who will decide whether to march on the strategically important city, held for more than two years by Kurdish forces supported by the US.

The decision will depend on Turkey, the main backer of Abu Faisal’s group, and on how contacts evolve between Washington and Ankara over the US plans to withdraw forces from Syria, a move set to reshape a major theater of the war.

The US and Turkey are allies both in the NATO defense alliance and in the fight against Daesh, but Ankara sees the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) forces that helped the US-led coalition drive Daesh out of Manbij in 2016 as a security threat.

The YPG fear the US withdrawal will open the way for a threatened Turkish attack into northern Syria, including Manbij, but US President Donald Trump has warned Turkey of “economic devastation” if it goes ahead with the attack.

Abu Faisal’s fighters are awaiting orders near Jarablus, a town held by Turkey and its Syrian opposition allies about 35 km south of Manbij. The frontline in the area runs through open farmland where wheat and corn are usually grown.

“We are ready with our forces ... for ‘zero hour’ to begin any military action,” Abu Faisal, whose forces have more than 300 vehicles including pickup trucks and armored vehicles provided by Turkey, told Reuters.

“Preparations are going at full speed,” he said.

Abu Faisal, 36, was an army captain before Syria’s civil war began in 2011 but defected from the Syrian Army in 2012 to join the fight against Bashar Assad.

Abu Faisal helped wrest control of Manbij from the Syrian Army early in the conflict but fled when it was seized by Daesh in 2014 and has not set foot there since then.

The YPG have also left Manbij but retain influence over the Kurdish-allied groups that hold the city 30 km from the border with Turkey.

Manbij lies near the junction of three separate blocks of territory that form spheres of Russian, Turkish and, for now, US influence.

The US military pullout will not only leave Kurds exposed to possible confrontation with Turkey but will also open the way for the expansion of Russian and Iranian sway into the areas that US forces will be leaving.

The US military deployed into Syria as part of the fight against Daesh but officials later indicated wider objectives included containing Iran, Assad’s main regional ally. 

Late last month, the YPG called on Assad’s forces to protect Manbij from attack by Turkey. Syrian government forces, which are backed by Russia, answered the YPG appeal by deploying outside Manbij.

Abu Faisal’s fighters, backed by Turkish forces, made their own advance toward the city the same day but stopped short of an attack.