Modern-day slavery is alive and well in today’s world and the story of a 23-year-old automobile engineer from India is yet another tragic reminder of just that.
Jayanta Biswas from the eastern Indian state of West Bengal was promised a high-paying job in the automobile industry in Saudi Arabia by a travel agent.
He opted for a tourist visa as he was told he would get a work visa only after completing three months at his new job. Biswas followed the instructions and headed for Riyadh in May.
However, as soon as he reached the Saudi capital, he was reportedly “sold as a slave” to a Saudi man named Naief Bookme, who confiscated all of Biswas’ documents.
Since his arrival in the Gulf kingdom, Biswas, an engineer, is being forced to work as a domestic helper in Bookme’s home. He takes “care of the master's house, cut grass, feed ostriches while living on just one meal a day,” according to Indian news website Daily News and Analysis.
“I am staying with a friend in a small room. My ‘kafeel’ (‘master’) is threatening to take me back to his place where he plans to do bad things with me again. I have no idea what he will do with me. He might deprive me of food, and even sleep, just as he did for such a long time. He will also force me to work for 24 hours, I am sure,” Biswas told Hindustan Times on the phone.
He claimed he had been sexually abused by Bookme “on several occasions.”
Biswas’ family has contacted Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to seek his help.
“We are really helpless. We will seek Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s intervention too to bring him back,” said Ria, Biswas’ sister.
There has been no response from Modi’s administration so far.
Unfortunately, Biswas’ story is of just one of the many foreign laborers who are lured to oil-rich Gulf and Middle East after being given false hopes of a better future.
Emotional, physical and sexual exploitation of migrant workers and domestic help hailing from developing nations such as the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh and Ethiopia at the hands of wealthy Saudi nationals is a well-documented issue.
“Saudi Arabia has attracted more low-paid Indian migrants over the last 25 years than any other country in the Gulf region. Every day, close to 1,000 Indian low-wage migrant workers are provided with emigration clearances to travel to Saudi Arabia,” Amnesty International stated in a report last year.
“Migrant workers reported working regularly for between 15 to 18 hours a day, without a day off, and without being compensated for overtime. Some were subjected to threats and beatings by their employers, had their passports and residency permits confiscated and were denied exit permits to return home.”