There is no proper food or accommodation for the workers, and they are living in highly unhygienic conditions, their families say.

Offered jobs as drivers forced to work as labourers without pay 13 Kerala men stuck in Saudi
news Thursday, May 25, 2017 - 13:58

It’s a story that repeats itself every few weeks, and without fail, it has done so again. This time, the victims are from Kerala. Thirteen people who went to Jeddah in Saudi Arabia to work as drivers have been cheated by an Arab company and forced to work as labourers without pay, their relatives have alleged.

Between January and May this year, 13 men from different parts of Kerala went to Jeddah after they were offered jobs as salesmen-cum-drivers in a firm called Arab company for Modern Industries, Dala. According to their families, they were recruited by two companies: AS Trade Link in Thiruvananthapuram, and Seven Seas in Kochi.

But once they reached, they were forced to work as labourers, and not given any salaries by their employer, the families claim.

Nimisha, whose husband is one of the 13 men, told TNM, “My husband Lijeesh went on May 6. He was offered the job of a driver, but now doing the work of loading labourer. There is no proper food or accommodation and they are living in highly unhygienic conditions.” 

Lijeesh is a native of Kozhikode. While the victims in Jeddah did not have any money to get in touch with their families, and couldn’t come back because their passports have been taken away, they finally managed to call them with the help of a social worker called Aslam, who works with the Helping Hand Association in Saudi Arabia. The men managed to recharge their mobile phones and got in touch with their families in Kerala.

“As far we know, at least 13 people are stranded there. My friend Sudheesh went three months ago. He also has been undergoing the same kind of suffering,” said Vipin, a native of Nedumangad in Thiruvananthapuram.

"Their passports have been taken by the company authorities. They haven't paid salaries also. So they are not in a situation to come back. It is even difficult to make phone calls," said Sudheesh's wife Swathy. Vipin then formed a WhatsApp group called ‘Oru Kaithangu’ to organise the families of these people and rescue them.

Apart from Lijeesh and Sudheesh, the other men stuck in Jeddah are Shanavas, Nishad, Naser, Joseph, Anand KM, Shibin, Arun Chandran, Rahul Chandran, Ajeesh, Saju, and Sibin Jacob.

The relatives of the 13 men have now complained to External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, and Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan. They have also filed complaints at various police stations in Kerala in this regard. The CMO has promised to take up the issue with the Saudi Embassy through the Non Resident Keralites Affairs department.

“The offer was for 12 hours of duty, 1500 Saudi riyal as salary, sales commission, free accommodation and heavy vehicle license at the company’s cost in three months. The visa cost us Rs 85,000 each, and the total expense was around Rs 1 lakh each. But till date, no salary has been given, neither have any facilities been offered by the agents,” the complaint said.

“Here we have to work from 15 to 16 hours a day. The company authorities are brutally torturing us when we ask for salary and threatening to transfer us to their head office situated in Wadi. They are demanding Rs 15,000 if we want to leave the job. Our life is under threat,” a part of the complaint read. 

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