UAE Indian embassy helpline gets 15,000 calls since launch

Embassy says majority of calls are of legal nature related to employment disputes
UAE Indian embassy helpline gets 15,000 calls since launch
IWRC provides medical, legal, consular and social advice to Indian expatriates living in the UAE (ITP Images)
By Claire Ferris-Lay
Thu 08 Sep 2011 04:18 PM

An Indian embassy helpline aimed at supporting migrant workers in the UAE has received more than 15,000 calls since its inception in November, the Indian ambassador to the UAE has told Arabian Business.

The embassy said it planned to stamp the telephone number of the Indian Workers Resource Centre (IWRC) on all of its national’s passports arriving in the UAE as part of a wider campaign aimed at better supporting its migrant workers in the Gulf state.

“So far since it was established we have received about 15,000 calls… There are an estimated 1.7 million Indians working in different areas [in the UAE] so they sometimes have problems with employment permits and salaries,” MK Lokesh told Arabian Business.

“Many also have psychological problems because they are living alone and have left family back home. Most of the calls are legal problems pertaining to their employment,” he added.

IWRC provides medical, legal, consular and social advice to Indian expatriates living in the UAE.

The news follows a week after three members of an Indian family were found dead in Ras Al Khaimah. Police sources told local newspapers that a forensic investigation had revealed the husband and wife had hung their daughter and then committed suicide due to financial difficulties. 

The UAE has attracted tens of thousands of mostly blue collar migrants from Asian countries, many of whom work in construction or as domestic maids.

The collapse of Dubai’s once-booming property market during the global economic downturn took a toll on the emirate’s low-paid migrant workers. A number of construction firms defaulted on wages as developers slowed or cancelled projects, and payment dried up.

Dubai Police last year said it had collected more than AED52m in unpaid labour wages from construction firms that had failed to pay their staff.

The UAE has introduced a series of new laws aimed at improving conditions for migrant workers. The Ministry of Labour in January said recruitment agencies that hire labourers would be forced to ringfence funds to cover workers wages, in a bid to crack down on salary defaults.

Global watchdog Human Rights Watch said the Gulf state needed to get tougher on enforcement of new regulations or they risk have little impact.

“On paper, things are actually quite developed from a labourer’s perspective but then what happens on the ground… the situation is quite different and quite drastic in some cases,” Samer Muscati, researcher at HWR, told Arabian Business in January.

“There have been a few initiatives in the past few months but I think implementation will remain a problem unless the government makes more serious effort to find a way to implement [them],” he added.

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