(MENAFN - Khaleej Times) Illegal recruiters are continuing to target unsuspecting Indian jobseekers despite the warning from authorities, and five men from Kerala are the latest victims who have sought help from the Indian embassy.
The victims - three from Kollam and two from Thiruvananthapuram district - were brought to the UAE in March by an illegal agent, who took Rs75,000 (around Dh3,900) from each of them.
Two of them hold ECR passports that require them to come through the recruitment portal eMigrate. But according to the details available with the embassy, they were brought to the UAE on visit visas while the other three were given work visas.
Though the sponsor converted the visit visas to work visas, the job contracts were not verified through the eMigrate system.
Explaining their ordeal, one of the victims, Nishad. S, 29, said they had to survive on one meal a day and were forced to sleep in the open air because there was no air-conditioner in their room.
"We had big dreams when we came to the UAE. Now, we are staring at an uncertain future and a huge debt," Nishad told Khaleej Times.
Al Mubarak, 22, his father Sainudheen, 46, Haseem Sulaiman, 25, and Saddam Hussain, 28, are the four other victims.
According to them, they were all promised jobs in a new restaurant in Al Ain. But things went wrong when the opening of the restaurant got delayed.
"The owner refused to pay us till the restaurant was open. We did not have money or food. Our room did not have electricity and it was impossible even to charge our mobile phones," said Sulaiman.
"During the month of Ramadan, we had requested him (the owner) to give us at least food for Suhoor. Our pleas fell on deaf ears."
The men said they survived the month on free Iftars and by keeping some leftovers for Suhoor.
"We had reached our breaking point when our employer started demanding money from us for our work visas that he processed. When we refused, he cancelled our visas and asked us to pay for the plane tickets. We had no choice but to approach the India Social Centre in Al Ain, which took us to the embassy," explained Nishad.
Indian Ambassador to the UAE Navdeep Singh Suri told Khaleej Times that the embassy has been in touch with Norka to facilitate their safe repatriation, with the cooperation of the community.
"We are taking care of them," Suri said.
"We have also written to the law enforcement authorities in Kerala so that necessary action can be taken against the agent."
In the past months, the embassy has helped repatriate many such victims of illegal recruitment and posted awareness messages on its social media accounts.
The envoy reiterated the embassy's stand and asked jobseekers with ECR passports to come to the UAE only through the recruitment portal eMigrate to avoid falling victim to fraud and exploitation.
"We have repeatedly highlighted that ECR passport-holders must not to come to the UAE on visit visas for employment purposes," said Suri.
Anjana Sankar is a journalist by profession and a humanist by passion. Her cluttered desk is not indicative of her state of mind.