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27 Nov 2019

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

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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to the numbers, migrant rights activists criticised the government for its lack of migration policy, citing an out of date 1983 Emigration Bill as no longer fit for purpose.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."