National Domestic Workers Movement organised a press meet to seek justice for the affected “Qatar migrant” at the Chennai press club on 11 February 016 at 11.30 am. From October to December 2015, NDWM was in contact with 17 affected migrants, among whom 11 migrants decided to speak during the press meet. These affected migrant labourers were trafficked with false promises, violating the process of labour migration. These migrants sweated blood in extreme heat and cold with minimum food in Qatar, without basic infrastructure in the labour camp. Still, thousands of migrants work day and night to give a new look to the cities in Qatar and to prepare them for the World Cup 2022. Thousands of labourers have lost their life in Qatar and in coming years, migrants and their rights need to be protected. So to seek justice for these returned, affected Qatar migrants, as well as to spread awareness on the realities of migrant life in Qatar, NDWM organized this press meet.

The migrants were holding plea cards with the details of the agents and the employers.
Each one of them had the chance to speak to the media;
the migrants even had the photos of their employers and of some of the agents. 

National Domestic Workers Movement (NDWM) helped these migrants with safe repatriation. In the Qatar airport before returning to India, the employer said that he will transfer their salary to their bank account.  It has now been over a month since they returned. When these migrants phone the agent to ask for their due salary, he does not reply.  Without income for almost 6 months and with the added debt and interest, the families of these migrants struggle even for hand to mouth at present. NDWM discussed with migrants the option of organising a Press meet on 11th of February and 11 of them travelled from different districts to Chennai to attend and bear witness.

The migrants seek the support of the press to reach the government and obtain justice. The problems faced by the migrant worker are that they had to work for over 18 hours per day and seven days a week.  Most of the labourers think that work abroad is good fortune for the family but these stories show us a very different, all too common reality.

In Qatar, I worked minimum 18 hours per day, 7 days in a week and I was promised of 1800 Riyals as my salary and my family here in village waited to repay the loan and to live decent life.  Each time I asked for salary, my employer postponed saying next week and next week became next month, after 3 months, I was just paid, 750 Riyals” says Rajaram from Ariyalur District.
With the dream of providing good life for my children I took the flight to Qatar, the Promised Land, but life there was beyond nightmare. I was exploited and forced to work for long hours with no salary. When I asked for my salary, under false case, I was put in Jail. After almost 50 days of imprisonment, I came back to India with nothing….” says Kannan from Tirunelveli District
“I paid agent Rs.40, 000 and I was sent to Qatar in the month of May, and. I had to work long hours in extreme heat and cold and was paid salary for May and June at the end of July. I was shocked that I was not paid for the overtime work I had done. From August to December I was not paid for work. I was worried about the safely of my life….” says VeeraKumar from Virudhnagar District.

They shared their struggle and pain they have gone through in the land of Qatar. Behind each migrant, their family members are denied rights. For all the migrant workers in Qatar denied of their rights and justice, together with all of them NDWM demanded:
justice and compensation for the affected migrant workers;
To enforce a separate ministry for migrant workers in Tamilnadu;
To change the sponsorship or “kafala” system- which ties workers to their employers and encourages forced labour;
To abolish supply companies who exploit the workers and their hard work;
For the Indian Government to ratify the UN convention 1990 which ensure the protection of migrant workers and their family members;
To drop prohibitive fees for workers to raise court cases against employers;
To publish the names of exploitative recruiters and employers;
To grant domestic workers the legal protection of labour rights afforded to other workers.

After the press meet, the 11 affected migrants submitted the petition to Chief Minister’s grievance cell, seeking her speedy intervention in this case and justice for each one of them. They also met with the Inspector General of Police to submit the collective petition but could not have an audience, as he was busy with election preparatory meetings. Each migrant will submit a petition to their respective Sub-Inspector of Police. These two activities strengthened the press meet. The police have begun calling the local agents to inquiry about the complaints and some of the agents, who previously never answered the migrants’ phone calls, began to call the migrants themselves.

The Hindu, 12 Feb 2016

The local agents have called the migrants to go with them to settle their salary at the main agent office in Kerala.  NDWM is coordinating with the migrants to not go alone, as they can be cheated and will accompany the 11 migrants on 22nd of February, accompanied by local network groups from Kerala.

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