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India: 34,000 migrant workers have died in the Gulf since 2014; activists criticise lack of protections

Responding to a parliamentary question in November 2019, Minister of State for External Affairs V Muraleedhan disclosed that a total of 33,988 Indian migrant workers have died in the Gulf since 2014. The country with the highest number of deaths was Saudi Arabia, accounting for 1,920 worker deaths.

Additionally, between January and 12 October 2019, the Ministry had received 15,501 complaints registered with the Indian embassies across the six Gulf countries relating to labour abuse. Most concerned late and non-payment of wages, denial of labour rights and benefits, non-issuance and renewal of residence permits, denial of weekly allowance and overtime, denial of weekly holidays and forced long hours.

Responding to the numbers, migrant rights activists criticised the government for its lack of migration policy, citing an out of date 1983 Emigration Bill as no longer fit for purpose. Mandha Bheem Reddy, President of Emigration Welfare Forum flagged up the lack of "rights-based treaties with these Arab Gulf countries, our workers can be subjected to exploitation very easily."

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22 November 2019

34,000 Indians died in Gulf in five years, 1,200 from Telanga

Author: U Sudhakar Reddy. Times of India

According to data of the ministry of external affairs (MEA), 33, 988 Indians have died in the Gulf since 2014, including 4,823 [in 2019]...

Till October [2019] ale, MEA had received 15,051 complaints from [migrants working in the ] Gulf, mostly pertaining to cheating by agents on employment...most complaints received from Indian workers are over non-payment of salaries and denial of legitimate labour rights and benefits such as non-issuance/renewal of residence permits, non-payment/grant of overtime allowance, weekly holidays and longer working hours. 

"Refusal to grant exit/re-entry permits..and non-provision of medical and insurance facilities and not being paid compensation upon death are some of the other complaints" added [a government official].

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21 November 2019

Everyday 52 Indian Migrant Workers Lodge Complaints From Gulf Countries

Author: Rejimon Kuttappan, The Lede (India)

On average, 52 Indians working in the Arab Gulf are lodging labour complaints on a daily basis in the Indian embassies...

migrant rights activists said that even though India is receiving around USD 79 billion as remittances from Indian migrants, India does not have a migration policy.

“We are still managing migration with a 1983 Emigration Bill. The entire migration scenario has changed in the last 35 years. But we are not updated ourselves and that’s why our people are struggling in the Arab Gulf...

“The Arab Gulf countries have exploitative working conditions... as we don’t have rights-based treaties with these Arab Gulf countries, our workers can be subjected to exploitation very easily,” [said Mandha Bheem Reddy, President of Emigration Welfare Forum]... adding that India has also missed to sign many global tools that can cover our workers’ rights.

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20 November 2019

Question posed in Lok Sabha from Uttam Kumar Nalamada Reddy to Minister of External Affairs, Shri V. Muraleedharan

Author: Lok Sabha (Indian Parliament)

(a) the number of reported deaths of Indian migrant workers in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman and UAE since 2014 and the details of these deaths;

(b) the number of complaint received from Indian migrant workers in these countries regarding poor working conditions and mistreatment;

(c) the details of action taken and the status of these complaints; and

(d) whether any measures are being considered or have been implemented to ensure decent working conditions for Indian migrant workers in these countries and if so, the details thereof?

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