Ajman: Allegedly cheated by a visa agent, two young Malayali women in UAE and Oman are seeking help to escape from the torture they have been undergoing in Middle Eastern nations.
Manorama Online has received audio messages and video clips of these women pleading for rescue. They said a Malayali visa agent in Ajman and her husband have been torturing them. They requested help to return home.
The hapless women have been identified as Elsie of Muvattupuzha and Glory Alex, who had been living with her family at a rented accommodation at Kizhakkambalam in Ernakulam.
Elsie said she had left Ernakulam for the Middle East on the promise of a job as a domestic helper for a monthly pay of Rs 25,000. She was taken to Ajman and lodged in a small apartment belonging to the visa agent.
Besides Elsie and Glory, there were more than 30 other Indian women in the apartment. Some of them are now employed as domestic helpers at different places in the UAE.
Elsie was assigned to a house at Al Ain, Abu Dhabi, on March 23. She had to slog, and a knee injury suffered after falling from a bus back home, started hurting and prevented her from working. She said her employer did not offer her proper rest.
On realizing that she could not work anymore, Elsie was brought back to the visa agent’s apartment. The agent allegedly collected from her 100 dirhams towards the return ticket fare. Elsie said the agent demanded Rs 50,000 for allowing her to return to Kerala.
Elsie is now requesting the Indian Consulate and social workers to help her return home, so that she could undergo treatment. The agent allegedly rejected the requests of Elsie’s husband and children to send her home. Since she cannot leave the apartment, the woman is unable to lodge a complaint with the authorities.
Ernakulam agent cheated Glory
Dinesh, a travel agent in Kochi, sent Glory Alex, who had been working in a shop, to the UAE on January 20. She was promised light domestic work and a monthly income of Rs 25,000. The woman, who had a debt of Rs 7 lakh, fell for the promise. She had availed the loan to meet the expenses of a surgery she had undergone.
Once in Ajman, Glory was accommodated for about 2.5 months in the same apartment where Elsie and other women were staying. Glory said all the women were under the constant fear of being harassed by the agent’s husband, and that they were not provided food regularly.
Though Glory was brought to Ajman saying she would be employed within a week, she was sent to Oman after 55 days. She was promised a better salary in that country.
In Oman, Glory was employed at a three-storey house of a family of 16. Her work started at 6am and went on till 11:30pm without break, and she was paid Rs 18,000 a month. Glory said the work was so tiring that she often fainted.
The agent verbally abused her when requested for a change in job. Glory was also asked to pay Rs 50,000 for returning to Kerala. She told Manorama Online that she would die in Oman if she could not reach Kerala at the earliest.
Lucrative for agents
Agents take young Indian women to UAE promising free visa, air ticket and attractive salary. The woman visa agent in Ajman, lodges the women coming from India in her small apartment, before sending them as domestic helpers to different households.
The women would not be paid during their stay at the agent’s apartment. The women alleged that they were not provided food regularly. Since the agents take away their passports on arrival, they have no other alternative other than to obey them.
The agents resort to abusing the women if they complain of work. The video released was of an argument the women had with the agent regarding work.
Though agents offer free visa and air tickets, they would earn double the amount in a short period of time. Wealthy families pay huge sums to the agent for a domestic servant since UAE has strict rules for bringing in and employing domestic help.
Though the employers pay the visa charges, the agents demand money from those women wishing to return home. The women are tortured mentally and physically as well.
It is alleged that the agents have the covert support of certain Indian associations in Ajman. The woman agent in the video could be heard saying that the Indian authorities would do nothing if the women complained against her.
Agents become active again
Instances of visa-employment frauds had been on a decrease after the surge in COVID-19 cases. It, however, has once again become rampant. Several Indians, including young women, have fallen prey to agents and are stuck in Ajman.
Besides those from Kerala, others are from poor families in Tamil Nadu, Bihar, Maharashtra, rural Delhi and other parts of North India. They are stuck in small, dingy rooms without proper food though they had been promised decent jobs and hygienic living conditions.
Though Indian authorities and Indian associations become active after media reports, no effort has been made to find a permanent solution to the exploitation by the agents.
Agents lure educated youths also
Incidentally, even highly educated youths, too, fall prey to the agents. The woman agent in Ajman has tie-ups with a few agencies to lure such youths to the UAE. They are promised hefty salaries, and they have to pay huge amounts for visas and air tickets. But they are issued visiting visas, valid for one or three months.
Since women domestic helps are of high demand, the agent provides them free visa and air tickets. Instances of lives getting ruined after falling to these agents have also been reported.
Social workers said the Ajman-based visa-employment fraudulent activities have its roots in the 1980s. Even educated youths are falling prey despite Kerala having official mechanisms such as NoRKA (http://www.norkaroots.net/jobportal.htm) to address the issues of expats and guide them.
Authorities should launch awareness programmes against such illegal activities at the grassroots level. The UAE and Indian authorities frequently issue advisories against such frauds. Legal recruiting agencies would never collect fees from the candidates.
Once offered an overseas job, it is advised to cross-check with that firm’s human resources department before proceeding further.
Some gangs use forged employment contracts and offer letters to cheat youngsters seeking overseas jobs. Offer letters are issued as the preliminary step for getting a UAE visa. Documents detailing the ‘employment’, too, are shown to the candidates, along with attractive salaries and other perks, to shortchange them.
What officials say
According to the UAE laws, the employer should bear the visa expenses. Authorities said no payment should be made for the visa, and the candidate should sign cheques or any other document as part of the job contract.
Job-seekers are also advised against entering into contract with anyone else other than official organizations. They should rely on job advertisements on media or official websites. On receiving a job offer, they should check its veracity.