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Indian workers falling prey to recruitment gangs

Agents based in India exploit loopholes in visa verification system

Gulf News

Dubai: Despite the efficient online hiring system of e-Migrate run by the Indian missions for its workforce in the UAE, many labourers continue to be hoodwinked by unscrupulous agents based in India with fake visas and promise of highly paid jobs, sources in the Indian Workers’ Resource Centre (IWRC) have said.

The issue requires quick redressal as of the 2.8 million Indians residing in the UAE, around 60 per cent are blue collar workers, they said.

“The e-migrate system profiles companies and is effective only when workers are recruited through it. However, there is a large scale ignorance of the new systems among unskilled workers who seek employment in the UAE. We get about 180-200 emails each month from labourers who have purportedly ‘secured’ a job visa here and write to verify the company’s credentials. We write back to them in case the company does not exist or is black-listed. But we can only caution those who write to us. In the meanwhile, hundreds of poor, gullible workers who mostly hail from rural parts of the country are selling off land and properties in their villages to raise money to pay off these fraudulent agents only to realise they have been duped when they land in the UAE and find the visa or the company does not exist,” the sources said.

Moreover, they said, there are two major loopholes such racketeers continue to exploit. First, Indian airports are not equipped with sophisticated technology to detect a fake visa and in the UAE, the online visa verification system is not yet centralised. So when a worker is issued a fake visa, he is able to fly out of India but gets stranded on reaching the UAE.

The General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs (GDRFA) runs a dedicated website called www.amer.ae where a worker can feed in his passport and work visa details and check the veracity of his visa and the credentials of the company. However, amer.ae covers only companies and jobs within Dubai.

So a worker who secures a "job" in any other emirate is unable to verify details on this website.

Workers requested that at the UAE-end there was a dire need to centralise the job visa verification website to avoid tragedies. “Me and my co-workers were given false information about our salary and told we would be able to save at least Dh1,000 each month as the pay promised to us was Dh1,400. However, upon arriving here I realised the monthly salary was only Dh600. Had I known this, I would not have sold my farm land to pay the agent. I miss my family and am unable to meet my family commitments with such poor pay,” said one worker on condition of anonymity.

To some extent this problem is being resolved with the new labour migration law that allows workers to change their jobs under some specific conditions, however, awareness about it continues to be low, said the IWRC sources. Every month, the Indian Embassy in conjunction with the IWRC holds health and general awareness camps at different labour sites.

Dinesh Kumar, first secretary, community affairs, at the Indian Embassy Abu Dhabi, told Gulf News: “On an average we organise about 50 such camps each year. At these camps we not only conduct health screening, but make workers aware of their rights and duties. We familiarise them with the etiquette and traditions they need to observe and respect in the UAE, provide them with mission contact numbers in case they need help and also talk to them about solutions to financial or work-related problems they might be facing.”

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