Sixty nine Indian nationals are unable to return from Jordan after Aseel Universal Garments manufacturing company that employed them, is allegedly refusing to settle their dues and send them back to India. Many of the employees’ company sponsored visas expired in 2022 along with their contracts and work permits. But, their demands to be sent back with the amounts due to them has not been met by the company even after a labour court in Jordan ruled in their favour. The Indian nationals say they have been denied food and water at their accommodation and that the Indian Embassy in Jordan is reportedly unresponsive to their cries for help.
Pavendhan Rajavel who hails from Ariyalur, Tamil Nadu, was employed at the Aseel Universal Garments manufacturing company’s packaging department. His company sponsored visa expired in 2022 and his work permit expired in June 2023 but the company has retained him at work without extending the validity of these documents. “After my work permit expired, the company refused to pay my social security amount and book my ticket to India. My social security amount alone is Rs 1.5 lakhs. Even though my permit is over, the company has been making me work in the factory but haven’t paid my salary. For several staff here, 9 months’ salaries are pending. We have no money to sustain nor have we been able to send any money back to our families in India,” he said.
The validity of visas have expired for most of the Indian nationals who work with the manufacturing company. “Without our visa permits, we cannot even step outside the factory premises to buy basic amenities because if caught by police, we will be charged with a ticket and fined,” Pavendhan explained.
Mohad Arasalan from Hardoi, Uttar Pradesh, has had a similar ordeal. Arasalan told TNM, “The company has not paid my salary since October 2023. They also owe me my social security amount of Rs 1 lakh. I have two ailing parents and four young siblings back home. I am the breadwinner and they are struggling without money.”
Citing employees’ unrest, the company shut operations in December 2023. Reports also suggest that the company has declared bankruptcy. Since then the accommodation and food services provided by the company have also dropped to substandard levels, said employees. Pavendhan said, “Electricity supply is suspended regularly and for long hours, we are not getting our food on time. On some days they give us only two meals. The worst part is that there is not enough water. The men are managing but there are so many women living in the womens’ hostel who are struggling without water. Food and water are our basic rights.”
‘No help from Embassy’
According to the employees, the Indian embassy promised to meet them and discuss their problems but didn’t follow through. “Many employees including me called them multiple times asking them to come help us because they are our only hope in this foreign country. But now the embassy is blocking our numbers. They have blocked my number also,” Arasalan alleged.
Sources from the government however, denied these allegations and told TNM that the embassy has been in touch with the Indians to provide assistance. The source said, “The embassy is ready to help them come back but the Indians employed there are refusing to return without getting the money that is due to them.”
Seven Indian nationals including Thiru Neela Gandan hailing from Chennai, pressed charges against Aseel Universal Garments manufacturing company and a labour court in Jordan ruled in their favour on November 23. The court noted that representatives of the company didn’t come to court despite having been notified. The court directed the manufacturing company to settle all dues to the employees, pay the fine amounts for illegally retaining them without extending their permits. The court also held that the employees should be sent back to India. Despite the court’s ruling, the company has not initiated corrective action.
Thiru Neela Gandan whose father is admitted to a hospital in Chennai said, “They are trying to cheat us and are wrongfully giving us the tag of ‘illegal migrants’. We are being denied our basic human rights and our hard-earned money.”
Through an advocate in the Madras High Court, Pavendhan has submitted an appeal to the Ministry of External Affairs. K Magendiravarman, the advocate, told TNM, “There has been no response to the emails sent to the Ministry of External Affairs, Tamil Nadu’s Chief Minister’s Office, and to the Non-resident Tamil Welfare Board yet. My client has requested to file a case if no response is received even after the holiday season,” Magendiravarman said.