26/01/2021

South Asian migrant workers seek justice as wage theft worsens under coronavirus | bdnews24.com

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As the coronavirus pandemic forced tens of thousands of South Asian migrants to leave the Gulf
countries where they worked, the Doha-based lawyer was flooded with calls about unpaid wages and
job losses.

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"Non-payment of wages or benefits has always plagued migrant workers in Gulf countries," said
Kochery, who specialises in labour law and advises many embassies in Qatar.
"But during COVID, the impact is being felt 100 times more. People left in fear, in a hurry, and most did
not have time to collect pending wages or benefits as they boarded special flights to return home. Now
they are counting their losses."

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South Asians have for years travelled to wealthier Gulf countries for employment, mostly as domestic
workers or in the construction and hospitality sectors.
One migrant worker often supports many relatives and can earn far more than they would make in the
same job at home.

Opinio

But their migrant status makes it much harder for them to seek justice when things go wrong - as they
have for large numbers in recent months as the pandemic has closed borders and devastated
economies.
Even before the pandemic, unions and lawyers like Kochery say, the system for dealing with such
cases was lacking.

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Now, they say, there is a desperate need for an overhaul to cope with the challenges that come with
the large-scale return of migrants.
The number of wage theft cases reported from Gulf countries rose more than three-fold between April
and July compared with the same period last year, says the Business and Human Rights Resource
Centre, which advocates for human rights in business.

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MONEY MATTERS
Bhoomaiah Motapalkula, 38, who worked as an office messenger, had not been paid his full salary
since April 2019 when he had to return to India.
Now home, he is talking to lawyers about getting the AED25,000 ($6,800) he says his employer in
Dubai owes him.





"I trusted my employer each time he reassured me about my wages and handed me a little money to
meet my needs," he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. "I came home with nothing."
In Bangladesh, returning migrants have on an average lost about 175,000 taka ($2,000), according to a
study by the Refugee and Migratory Movements Research Unit.
The charity, which based its figures on interviews with about 50 migrants, found most of the losses
were unpaid wages.

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https://bdnews24.com/world/south-asia/2020/09/09/south-asian-migrant-workers-seek-justice-as-wage-theft-worsens-under-coronavirus

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