Female domestics from India’s southern Andhra Pradesh are languishing in jails in Gulf states after attempting to flee abusive employers or overstaying their visas, said an Indian state minister, urging the national government to help them.
In a letter to India’s Foreign Minister, Sushma Swaraj, Andhra Pradesh’s minister for non-resident Indian welfare, Palle Raghunatha Reddy, called for action to bring back the women.
“Necessary steps should be initiated to bring them to their native areas safely by providing free travel and necessary visa documents at the earliest possible (opportunity),” he wrote.
“Instructions should be issued to Indian embassy officials in Gulf countries to intervene in the matter and provide necessary help in terms of food, clothing and shelter.”
Government figures show there are an estimated six million Indian migrants in the Gulf countries. These include women who leave their villages to take up jobs overseas paying up to three times more than in India, putting their fate in the hands of recruitment agents, who often dupe them.
There is no official data on the exact count of the migrants stranded in Gulf countries but experts put the numbers in tens of thousands, many of them in jail. Women from Andhra Pradesh and the neighboring state of Telangana “are being sold like products in a retail shop,” Reddy wrote in the letter sent last week.
He said at least 25 women jailed in Gulf states have sought the state government’s help recently. A senior official in the Andhra Pradesh government said a group of ministers from the state would travel to the Gulf next month to investigate the plight of migrants from their region.
The state government is also in the process of appointing lawyers to provide legal advice to Indian prisoners in Gulf jails, the official said.