Friday, 2 March 2007

Dubai: Shattered Dream of Andhra Migrant Labour - II

Deccan Chronicle/Asian Age, March 10, 2007
By Syed Akbar
Dubai, March 9: Young Undedi Vincent Vijaychandra, a well qualified electrician but illegal migrant, wants to surrender to the UAE immigration official so that he could be deported to India. But his half a dozen attempts so far proved futile. The authorities turned his request down saying that the jails are full with more than 14,000 Indians and there's no further room left for him.
Every day dozens of people line up outside the Jumerah jail pleading with
authorities to imprison them. UAE Rules stipulate prison term and or penalty for overstay before deportation. Imprisonment is the shortest route to return to India for those who work illegally in Dubai and other Emirates.
"We need recommendation to go to jail. I can't understand why we are not arrested," argues Vijaychandra, who is desperately trying to leave Dubai. Vijayachandra is a victim of dubious recruitment agencies that lure unsuspecting people with "bundles of money" in Dubai. And there are hundreds of thousands of Vijaychandras in the UAE.
The seeds of illegal migration to Dubai are sown back in the dusty villages of
Nizamabad, Karimnagar, Adilabad and Warangal districts in the backward Telangana region where prospective migrant construction workers are literally hand-picked by unscrupulous recruitment agents.
Investigations by this newspaper revealed that these recruitment agents, both in India and UAE, act in connivance with immigration staff at Nagpur, Hyderabad, Dubai and Sharjah international airports. They take advantage of the administrative and technical system being in vogue at Nagpur and Hyderabad airports to pump in to and pump out of Dubai and Sharjah airports hundreds of illiterate migrant construction workers.
While immigration desks at all the international airports in India are manned by personnel drawn from hi-profile Intelligence Bureau, strangely enough the airports in Hyderabad and Nagpur are manned by local police. This leave a wide gap in immigration controlling system at these two airports. And this explains the reason why almost all the illegal migrant or Kalli Valli workers working in UAE are from Andhra Pradesh. Whenever AP authorities tightens the immigration system, the workers go to Nagpur airport. Interestingly, Air Arabia operates low cost flight services between Nagpur and Sharjah.
Though the immigration system are relatively tight in Dubai, there's no proper check in Sharjah or Abu Dhabi airports.
An official at the Indian Consulate in Dubai admits lapses in immigration system particularly at Nagpur and Hyderabad airports. "Just tighten the system and the problem is solved once and for all. Follow the Emigration check rules strictly and there will be no Kalli Valli workers in UAE," he points out.

Kokkula Lakshman from Potharam village in Qatlapur mandal of Karimnagar district entered UAE through Nagpur airport three years ago. Today he earns eight Dirhams (Rs 96) per hour and pays two Dirhams (Rs 24) to his agent as commission.
Lakshman admits that he found his way through the immigration desk by bribing the officials. "Just slip Rs 200 in the passport and the official puts the departure stamp. If we do not offer money, we are asked to stand aside and only on bribing we are allowed to pass through the immigration check," he says.
K Ravi Kumar, who stays in a labour camp at Sonapur, supports the charge of Lakshman. "We are illiterate. We simply dream big of Dubai without knowing the troubles that lay ahead of us. Had the immigration officials in Hyderabad and Nagpur been sincere, the problem of Kalli Valli workers would not have arisen at all," he points out. Others in the labour camp at Sonapur nod in agreement.
Interviews with Kalli Valli workers at various labour camps and construction sites by this correspondent revealed that recruitment agents go round the villages in backward Telangana districts in search of able bodied persons luring them with the "golden" Dirhams and the "wonderful" life of Dubai, Sharjah and Abu Dhabi. The currency difference between Dirham and Rupee is another attraction offered to unsuspecting prospective migrant construction workers.
The agents get commission not only from the migrant workers but also from the employers in the UAE. According to rough estimates, an agent makes between Rs 20,000 and Rs 50,000 per migrant construction worker depending upon the latter's innocence and financial affordability. They also guide gullible workers on which type of visa they should apply for, visit or employment visa.
Indian migrant workers whom this correspondent interviewed point out that these agents back home in India work on behalf of the construction or recruitment firms in UAE. There are also instances of some construction firms sending their scouts directly to Telangana districts in search of cheap labour.
According to sources, there are also firms that recruit migrant workers from India, particularly Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Kerala for sub-contracting them to employers in UAE. These companies wear the illegal mark of "manpower supply" agencies but carry out illegal activities by confiscating the passports of migrant workers to have full control over them.
Life becomes horrible for migrant workers on sub-contract lease if they meet
with an accident. Several such workers are stay put in hospitals as they could not clear the medical bills. They are also not eligible for labour compensation.
Migrant workers, who gain entry into UAE on employment visa, are offered very low salaries since the recruitment companies or construction firms spend money on the recruitment and the visa process. Local labour rules stipulate that employers should pay certain fees to the government for each migrant labourer they recruit into UAE. The companies spend around 200 Dirhams towards visa request and 1,000 Dirhams for employment visa issuance fee.
The employers should also bear the cost of air fare and provide free accommodation.
To avoid this, unscrupulous construction companies prefer the channel of visit visa or "Kalli Valli". They need not pay any visa fee and also they are not liable for compensation to their workers if they are "Kalli Valli". No wonder then that the agents have found a safe haven for Kalli Valli workers in the backward areas of Andhra Pradesh.

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