A racket involving women working as domestic help on visit visas in Bahrain has come to light after two Bhiwandi-residents escaped from their sponsors. Saira Banu Kamruddin Shaikh and her elder sister, Zulekha Mohrab Ali Shaikh took shelter at the Indian Embassy in Bahrain on May 28.
The siblings, who escaped from their places of work in Bahrain, said they were ill-treated by their employers, and have worked in Saudi Arabia and Oman before. Saira and Zulekha are now at the Migrant Workers Protection Society (MWPS) shelter and await repatriation to India. However, their family in Bhiwandi is clueless about the duo’s whereabouts.
Zaira and Sulekha had been issued “gratis” visit visas and were given certificates purportedly issued by the Indian Embassy in Bahrain certifying that they were visiting relatives.
“Though the two women belong to Mumbai, they took their flights out from Hyderabad and Delhi respectively,” said MWPS volunteer Mehru Vesuvala, speaking from Adliya, Bahrain.
Vesuvala said their forged certificates also had the passport copy of an Indian woman who was supposed to be their sponsor, and a copy of a residence permit, possibly to hoodwink immigration authorities in India. She added, “We checked the Labour Market Regulatory Authority (LMRA) website and found the resident to be genuine, but the residence permit copy was forged. It is surprising that they carried ‘gratis’ visas, which are normally given to only ministry and government employees.”
“I came to Bahrain four months ago on a promise that I would be paid Bahrain Dinar (BD) 60 a month for household chores. The agent charged me Rs 20,000. He said there was a problem in Mumbai and I must take the flight out of Delhi,” said Zulekha.
When she arrived in Delhi, Shaikh said she was herded into a small room with many other women. “I was prohibited to leave the room and was put on a plane seven days later.” She also said that she was ill-treated from the day she arrived in Bahrain. “I worked long hours and the house owner and his family abused me.” Saira reached Bahrain a month ago and was assigned to a Bahraini household. She said she was forced to work in several houses. “I left soon after and stayed with a few other housemaids for a few days and called my sister.” Later, the sisters went to the Indian embassy. “We want to return to India as soon as possible,” says Saira.
Interestingly, while Saira’s passport lists her age as 56 years, she claims she is 40 and her sister, whose passport and Indian voter ID card lists her age as 44, claims she is 36.