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.


Abadi faces US wrath at U-turn on Iran sanctions

An intended visit to Tehran was canceled and Abadi’s office denied that the visit had even been planned. (REUTERS)
Updated 15 August 2018
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Abadi faces US wrath at U-turn on Iran sanctions

  • Iran has maintained close ties to Iraq's government since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion toppled Saddam Hussein, Tehran's archenemy
  • The administration says the renewed sanctions are meant to pressure Tehran to halt its alleged support for international terrorism

BAGHDAD: Failure by Iraq to comply fully with tough new US economic sanctions against Iran would be insane, analysts told Arab News on Tuesday.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Abadi risked incurring US wrath after contradicting himself in the space of a few hours over whether his country would comply.
Amid diplomatic maneuvers, as he negotiates for a second term in office after divisive and contested elections, Abadi offended both Tehran and Washington with conflicting statements on the US sanctions, which were reimposed last week.
First, the prime minister said that while Iraq disapproved of the new sanctions, it would reluctantly comply. “We don’t support the sanctions because they are a strategic error, but we will comply with them,” he said.
“Our economic situation is also difficult and we sympathize with Iran. But. at the same time, I will not make grand slogans that destroy my people and my country just to make certain people happy.”
His position provoked anger in Iran. An intended visit to Tehran on Tuesday to discuss the issue was canceled, and Abadi’s office denied that the visit had even been planned.
There was also criticism inside Iraq, especially from groups close to Tehran, such as the Asaib Ahl Al-Haq and Badr paramilitary movements.
Within hours, however, Abadi had reversed his position. “I did not say we abide by the sanctions, I said we abide by not using dollars in transactions. We have no other choice,” Abadi told a news conference in Baghdad.
Asked if Baghdad would stop imports of commodities, appliances and equipment by government companies from Iran, he said the matter was still being reviewed. “We honestly have not made any decision regarding this issue until now,” he said.
Michael Knights, the Lafer Fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, told Arab News: “Iraq can’t afford to be cut off from the dollar-based global financial system, so it makes sense to avoid sanctioned Iranian financial entities. Iraq should also protect its dollar reserves.
“These are the only sane options for a country that desperately needs international investment.”
Iraq is the second-largest purchaser of Iranian non-oil exports, and bought about $6 billion worth of goods in 2017. It also buys Iranian-generated electricity to deal with chronic power cuts that have been a key factor sparking mass protests in recent weeks.
On Tuesday, the British renewable energy investor Quercus became the latest major company to pull out of Iran as a result of the new sanctions.
It halted construction of $570 million solar power plant in Iran, which would have been the sixth-largest in the world.