Human trafficking in Gulf: Bitter tales of 3 Kerala women rescued from Kuwait
After three women from Kerala escaped from the clutches of a human trafficking network in Kuwait following the intervention of some social organisations there, Kerala Police suspect many more such people may have been trapped in West Asian countries.
On Saturday, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) questioned the three women who returned to Kerala recently after they complained that their ‘tormentors’ often took the name of terrorist groups in Islamic State-controlled areas, and threatened to take them there if they protested and informed family members back home.
Police on Sunday arrested a local agent named Ajumon who had put out advertisements and recruited some of these women as babysitters and part-time domestic workers.
“We have information that at least 30 people were sent by him and 15 returned to the country. After preliminary inquiry, we found out that the issue of selling them to ISIS was a kind of threat but detailed investigation is on,” said Kochi Police commissioner Nagaraj Chakilam.
He said MK Gazali, alias Majeed, hailing from north Kerala is the kingpin behind the trafficking racket. “It seems he is not an Indian citizen now. We are collecting all details,” said the commissioner, adding that Ajumon was even offered commission.
A case has been registered under sections 406 (criminal breach of trust), 420 (cheating), 506 (criminal intimidation) and 370 (human trafficking) of the Indian Penal Code.
“Ajumon used to stick posters in the city to attract women from poor background. He used to give them wrong promises that they would be babysitters, and taken care of well. But they end up in traps,” the police official said, adding that the accused was also not a licensed travel agent.
One of the escaped women said on conditions of anonymity that she was offered a monthly salary of ₹40,000 and air tickets for the job in Kuwait. “When I reached there, my passport was seized and I was locked in a room with four other women. I was assaulted brutally when I tried to get in touch with my family back home. I was later sold to a Kuwaiti family for ₹3.5 lakh, forced to work even at night and given little food and at times starved,” said the 44-year-old from Kollam.
She said three of them escaped after they managed to send geographical location to volunteers of a Malayalee association, who traced them with the help of some social organisations and sponsored their ticket back home. The woman was sent to Kuwait in March and spent more than two months in an Arab household before escaping two weeks ago.
“When we protested, the agent threatened that we will be sent to Islamic State-controlled provinces in Syria. He also showed photos of some women who were dispatched to such areas and said there will be no return from there. Once, I came across Hindi and Bengali-speaking women duped like us,” another returnee said.
She said she was working as an Asha worker and took the offer in the hope of better financial situation of the family. “I never thought I will be saved. But I kept trying. I came to know there are hundreds of such women trapped in Kuwait alone,” she said.
An immigration official said there are stringent provisions to recruit domestic workers to Gulf countries. Usually, emigration clearances and visas are channelised through e-migrate websites. And the sponsor has to provide a bank guarantee of $2,850 as security deposit to the embassy. This deposit is used as compensation for unpaid dues and legal obligations.
“Traffickers use fake designations such as babysitters, helps for the aged, garden attendants and cleaning staff to dupe them. Despite stringent provisions and awareness drives, many are still falling into traps,” the official said.