Last week, the Hyderabad police registered a case against two agents for duping Haseena Begum.

Agents trap victims promising a better life Son of Hyderabad woman thrashed by Saudi man
news Migrant workers Tuesday, April 11, 2017 - 19:26

“I was against my mother’s decision to move to Dammam. But she did not listen to me,” said Mohammad Wajid.

His mother Haseena Begum, a Hyderabad woman had gone to Saudi Arabia last October to work as a housemaid. But two months into her job, Haseena began to be harassed by her employer. Unable to face the torture, she reportedly ran away from her employer’s house in March and approached local authorities.

But her kafeel (employer), who promised to let her go following some paper work, took her home and allegedly pushed her from the third floor. Haseena fractured both her legs and had to be admitted at the Dammam Central Hospital.    

Dreams of a better life

Like the story of many others, who go to the Middle East in search of a better life, Haseena’s circumstances forced her to take up the offer.  The 46-year-old found herself helpless after her husband – the sole breadwinning member of the family- became bedridden last year. With mounting debts and finding it harder to survive every day, Haseena had few options before her.

“An auto rickshaw driver told my mother about the agents who send women on Khadama (housemaid) visa to Saudi Arabia. We met them and they explained that she will get 1,600 riyals a month there, along with her food and medical expenses,” 21-year-old Wajid told TNM.

Although he was apprehensive about her going, Haseena was determined to send money home.

“The agents told us that they will take full responsibility of her, and if she doesn’t like the job she can come back anytime. They also lied about the work there. They claimed that it was a family of two and there would not be much work,” Wajid recalled.

But he alleged that at the airport his mother was forced to sign a two-year contract, without him knowing.

When Haseena called eight days later saying she was not comfortable with the job, the agents told Wajid, it will take time for her to adjust in the new country.

“She did not get paid and when she asked for her salary the kafeel beat her up,” her son said.

When Wajid contacted the agents once again, he says they demanded Rs 1.6 lakh to bring her back to Hyderabad.

It was only after Haseena was admitted in hospital when help arrived. Social workers from the Indian Embassy in Riyadh located Haseena after External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj took notice of the case.

It was these workers who arranged the phone call between Haseena and her son.

“I call the social workers every day. They let me speak with her at least twice a month. Every day I think, why did she not listen to me, she could have been here with us. She is suffering there alone, and we are also suffering everyday thinking about her,” said Wajid helplessly.

On April 3, Begumpet police registered a case of cheating and criminal breach of trust against the two travel agents Jani Mia and Mohammed Shafi, who allegedly duped Haseena Begum.

Duped by local agents

Haseena’s story, however, is hardly the first case of a person being promised high wages and a better life in Saudi Arabia and other countries, only to have their dreams shattered and their spirit broken following constant harassment by employers.

“For the past one year, I have seen as many as 48 such cases. 80% of the time, it is women who face such harassment. The agents trap widows or women from economically background families by telling them that they have an opportunity to earn better,” said MBT leader Amjed Ullah Khan.

He also alleged in most of the cases, local agents are in touch with housemaids and auto rickshaw drivers, who pass on information of people from poor families.

“We have contacts with many people in Old City. The shopkeepers also tell us about people who are in need of better jobs. We have sent nearly 10 people abroad, and have not not get any complaints,” said a local agent in Hyderabad to TNM.

The agent also added that they are in touch with agents in Saudi Arabia.

“We have been sending people for almost four years now. We get the contacts of employers from the agents in Saudi. Most of the employers in Saudi treat their employees like a member of the family. We send them first on a 30-day visa, and only if they like the place, they sign the contract,” the agent pointed out.

He, however, denied receiving any cases or complaints of an employee being harassed by his/her kafeel.

But MBT’s Amjed Ullah dismisses the agent’s version, stating, “They send people for 90 days on a tourist visa, and once they get there, the employer forces them to sign a two-year contract. The kafeels pay over a lakh to these agents for employees. So until the agents pay back the money, the kafeel will not allow the person to leave.”

He also alleged that officials in the Indian Embassy are party to the human trafficking.

“When I talk to victims, they say that ‘we saw the officials from Indian Embassy taking money from kafeels’. It has become a big trap for people in Hyderabad, especially women. Some of the women are promised jobs in beauty parlours but when they reach, they are given the job of a housemaid. The police in Hyderabad are also not taking the matter seriously. Most cases are from Old City. How many of these agents got arrested?” Amjed Ullah asked

Wajid, who doesn’t know when he will see his mother again, advises his friends and relatives to not fall prey to agents.

“These agents have sources everywhere. They blatantly lie that the life over there is better and people get more job opportunities. One of my friends was supposed to contact an agent for job in Riyadh but I suggested he not fall for these traps. Nobody else should face what we are going through,” he said.

 

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