Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Truly a woeful story, which provides a sense of how imported workers are often exploited in the Gulf

Bahrain Tribune Daily Newspaper, Bahrain: "Amnesty applicant has no home to go to

Bonny Mascarenhas
Staff Reporter

"After living for close to two decades as an illegal worker, amnesty applicant Mohammed Kunhi, who was on the threshold of returning home has learnt his family has slammed their doors on him.
"“My wife and children have told me not to come home, they are not ready to take me in,” the 48-year-old, Kunhi, told the Tribune. He had come to the Indian Embassy Open House on Friday and was crying inconsolably.
"A source told the Tribune that this was the second blow for Kunhi, who had earlier been informed that he had to pay a fine of BD878 in order to leave the country. “In 1997, a fine had been slapped on Kunhi by the court after his sponsor had filed a case against him,” the source said. “I don’t know what the charge is because it still has to be checked.”
"Another source said that attempts had been made to find Kunhi’s employer to negotiate the amount of the fine but he could not be located. “It is not even known if he is in Bahrain. But Kunhi could not leave even under amnesty without paying the fine. It is not clear who the money has to be given to in case the sponsor is not located,” the source said.
"Kunhi’s story had been reported by the Tribune on August 8. He had He had come to apply for amnesty on a Saturday when the embassy was closed and was standing outside.
"He had said that he arrived in Bahrain in 1990 even before the Gulf war. He said that he had paid BD1,000 for his visa to an agent. Upon arrival he had handed his passport to the man who kept it.
"In the first few years he met the agent several times and gave him BD200 twice to pay for getting his visa stamped but then one day he vanished, leaving Kunhi stranded for the next 17 years.
"In the 17 years he has worked as a restaurant cleaner, a painter, a construction site labourer and in a cold store. All the money he saved was lost in a scam that grew out of the internal private raffle called ‘chitti’ in which a kitty is made and there is a monthly payoff.
"Unable to earn enough to pay for his food and rent he had stopped funding his wife and two daughters after a few years. He kept in touch with them but then for the past seven years he stopped that too out of shame and guilt that he could not help them in their difficulties.
"Now after all these years, he has discovered that his silence has been too expensive and will probably cost him his family.
"A social worker told the Tribune that they are attempting to find Kunhi’s sponsor. “We are also trying to raise the money to help pay the fine and send him home,” she said. But for Kunhi, will he have a home after returning?"

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