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Modern Slavery is an international problem. Whilst the  West is proactive and determined to tackle the Slavery when it reaches their shores, the developing countries  not only fail  to tackle  it but also fail to identify that fact that it is enslavement and therefore a gross breach of Human Rights as well as being a criminal offence.

Satish (not his real name) is a 43 year old Indian migrant worker travelled from Karnataka, India to work in the household of a wealthy married couple in Bahrain in August 2018.

Satish maintains he was unaware of the status of the visa applied on  his behalf. Satish is illiterate. 

Satish explained that he paid a ‘recruitment agent’ in India 50,000 Indian Rupees (approximately £560 GBP). This payment represented the recruitment agent’s fee for arranging the employment post for him.

The agent completed an application for a ‘single entry visit visa’ on behalf of Satish. This ‘single entry visit visa was wholly inappropriate for Satish’s needs since Satish expectation was to travel to Bahrain to work not to visit the country. 

Satish says that was employed as a gardener and required to undertake any chores that he was asked to do by his female  ‘sponsor’. Her details appear on the official documents including on his identity card. Satish claims that this lady was related to the ruling family of Bahrain. She failed to legally formalise and register his employment. This meant that Satish was working illegally. He feared being caught and being detained in Police custody. 

Satish further maintains that he forced to work eighteen hours per day, seven days a week without any  leave. His sponsor confiscated his passport upon commencement of his employment as well as his hold-all  bag containing his personal possessions including his clothes. She handed him two sets of clothes to wear during the week. His salary was withheld. 

During the course of his enslavement, Satish suffered from health problems. His sponsor denied him access to a medical practitioner to seek a medical assessment and subsequent treatment for his condition.

Satish said that he lived in a state of constant fear of being picked up the Police and detained in Police custody for years. He was of aware of such cases.

Satish alleges that his ‘sponsor’ prohibited him leaving her property. She made it clear to him that if he attempted to leave or if he contacts the Police and/or the Indian Embassy, she will ‘plant’ drugs in his hold-all bag or place her belongings in his bag (or place her property in his bag and accuse Satish of theft) and then she will report the matter to the Police. Satish Satish feared her; he describes her as having a violent temper and that she would  have heated arguments with her husband.

Following Justice Upheld intervention, Satish was rescued by the Police and eventually repatriated. His sponsor had to return his passport to him and his belongings as well as pay the legal penalties and fines for failing to register Satish’s employment. 

Concerns about the case:

  • Failure by the Immigration authorities at both in India and in Bahrain airports to establish whether Satish had a valid visa for the purposes and the nature of his travel. This could have been established at departure and upon arrival;
  • Failure by the Indian authorities to enforce the law and prosecute unregistered and therefore unregulated ‘recruitment agents’. Legal enforcement action against the unauthorised recruitment consultants will deter them from operating without complying with legislation;
  • There is a lack of awareness and advice for the work migrant to make an informed choice in relation to working abroad;
  • Absence of organised representation of the rights of migrant workers. Justice Upheld learnt that many of the international trade organisations and international trade unions representation does not extend to the Gulf States, therefore, migrants workers’ interests are not represented and their rights are not protected. This exposes them to abuse and exploitation. The perpetrators of the abuse continue with impunity. They have no deterrent to refrain from their abusive behaviour; they know that they will have a fresh cohort migrant workers to exploit since the problem is unchallenged and it becomes cyclical accordingly, it remains unresolved and ignored. 
  • The sponsor did not face any legal action for the abusive treatment of Satish, for infringing his Human Rights or for enslaving him. No legal action was taken against her. The lack of accountability and/or punishment via the criminal justice procedure means she will repeat her behaviour.

These cases demonstrate targeted discrimination and exploitation directed at South Asians and African migrant workers. No data is formally collected which means these serious issues remain invisible to the authorities and to the international Human Rights organisations. 

Further reading:

Indian woman enslaved in Bahrain

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