By Jose Kavi
New Delhi, Nov. 7, 2018: A Catholic nun working among migrant workers agrees with a voluntary group’s finding that at least 10 Indians die every day in the Persian Gulf countries.
“I am not surprised. The number could be more,” Sister Josephine Amala Valarmathi told Matters India on November 7.
The member of the Missionary Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary was responding to the findings of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative.
The 43-year-old nun, based in Chennai, has addressed the problems of Indians working in the Persian Gulf countries, Malaysia and Singapore, for the past 16 years.
She says she is quite familiar with the problems of Indians working overseas as she often gets such distress calls from them.
The Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative released early November its analysis of the deaths of Indian workers in Bahrain, Oman, Qatar, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates from January 1, 2012 to about mid-2018.
Venkatesh Nayak of the voluntary group provides the figures for six years from 2012.
“Available data indicates, at least 24,570 Indian workers died in the six Gulf countries between 2012 and mid-2018. This number could increase if the complete figures for Kuwait and UAE are made available publicly. This amounts to more than 10 deaths per day during this period,” Nayak told reporters.
He said he had got those figures through the Right to Information data from External Affairs Ministry.
Nayak’s data was provided by Indian missions in Bahrain, Oman, Qatar and Saudi Arabia but the embassy in the UAE refused to give information. The Indian embassy referred to data on their website which was only 2014 onward.
In order to fill gaps, Nayak used data provided in Parliamentary questions in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha.
Sister Valarmathi shared another list compiled by an unnamed person on the number of Indian workers who died in the Persian Gulf countries between 2005 and 2015.
Her list has a total of 31,810 deaths reported from Bahrain, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates during the 11-year-period. This accounted for 8 deaths daily.
The nun’s list gives the number of bodies repatriated to India between 2005 and 2015.
Oman expatriated bodies of all 5,402 Indian workers who died there, Qatar sent all 2,396 bodies, Bahrain 1,493, Iran 52, Iraq 123 and UAE 384.
However, no data is available for the number of repatriation in Saudi Arabia where 13,248 Indian deaths occurred. Kuwait had 5,249 deaths, but repatriated only 4,021.
Migrant workers and Indian economy
Nayak says Indians working in the Persian Gulf countries accounted for more than half of the remittance that India received from all over the world between 2012 and 2017.
“While India received a total of US$410.33 billion in remittances from the world over, remittances from the Gulf countries accounted for US$209.07 billion,” he said.
“The above comparison is not an attempt to label the remittances from the Gulf as blood money. Instead the purpose of this comparative analysis is to highlight the shockingly large number of deaths Indian Workers in Gulf of countries. This phenomenon requires urgent examination,” Nayak added.