As recently as 2018, the Indian embassy in Saudi Arabia had told Nasser’s family that “grievance is under review”
Twelve-year-old Lulu Nasser has seen her father, Abdul Nasser’s, pictures only in family albums.
Nasser had migrated to the Arab Gulf in 2008 when Lulu was a new-born baby.
Until last Thursday, she, her mother and grandmother, believed that her Vappachi (father in north Kerala Malayalam) would come home with bags full of gifts one day from the Arab Gulf.
But her hopes were dashed on Thursday when her grandmother Aleema Mohammed got a call from an official from the Indian embassy in Saudi Arabia.
He informed Lulu’s grandmother that, Nasser was found dead by hanging in a Saudi prison in 2008.
Since the end of 2008, Nasser had not been in touch with his family. However, his family in Kerala believed that he might be alive somewhere in the Arab Gulf and would come home one day.
And they had reached out to all authorities from the state to the union government to find Nasser, since then.
So when the call came, they were hoping that Nasser had been found. However, the official who called had bad news, 12 years later.
Talking to The Lede, Kunju Mohammed, uncle of Nasser said that they were very worried after hearing the bad news and now clueless about what to do.
“Since then, everyone at Nasser’s house is shattered. Especially, Lulu. She has stopped going to school. We all are worried. Till that Thursday we had a hope that Nasser would return one day. Now, after 12 years, they are telling us that he is no more,” Mohammed said.
“How can they be so irresponsible? For how many years, we have been following up with them to know updates about Nasser. They would answer saying they are looking into the issue. The same answer was given from the state and central government. Now we won’t see his dead body either,” Mohammed added.
Nasser’s body was buried in Saudi Arabia.
Meanwhile, Rafeek Ravuther, a migrant rights activist, who is actively involved in finding missing migrants all over the world for the past two decades, told The Lede that in 2018 itself, he had filed a complaint through MADAD, the online grievance system of the union government set up for addressing migrant issues, seeking help to find Nasser.
“Interestingly, the government was repeatedly telling us officially and updating the response column that "they are on it". And after being on it for two years, they have now called the family only to say that Nasser is dead," Rafeek said, adding that this incident exposes how irresponsible the Indian embassy is in handling migrant issues.
Launched by the Indian government in 2018, MADAD (‘MEA’ in Aid of Diaspora in Distress) is a Consular Services Management System. Consular grievances regarding compensation, court cases, domestic help, imprisonment abroad, transportation of mortal remains, repatriation, salary dues, tracing the whereabouts of a missing person can be lodged under this scheme.
Out of the 56,688 grievances registered, 49,164 have been resolved, claims the MADAD portal.
However, according to Rafeek, most of the time, they get only a cold response or update from MADAD.
“In the majority of the complaints we file, the response we get is that “grievance is under review.” It is all automated,” Rafeek added.
Quoting parliament replies, The Lede had earlier reported that on average, 52 Indians working in the Arab Gulf are lodging labour complaints daily in the Indian embassies.
This year, from January 01 till October 12, there were 15,051 complaints registered with the Indian embassies in all six Arab Gulf countries.
According to a parliament document, in Saudi Arabia, in 2018, some 8200 workers had filed complaints and in 2019 till June, the number was 2500.
Lateefh Thechy, a social worker in Saudi Arabia, told The Lede that the number of cases was going up day by day and it has become impossible to attend to cases and do follow-ups.
“We are now prioritising the cases based on its seriousness. But when we do that we miss following up on a few cases,” Lateefh said adding that he is currently running from pillar to post to secure freedom for a person who is in jail for the last 10 years even after completing the term.
“His son is a cancer patient and admitted to hospital. But the father is in jail here. He is also a patient. We are not sure whether we will be able to repatriate him without much delay,” Lateefh added.
There are 30 million Indian migrant workers, with over nine million in the GCC region (Gulf Cooperation Council) alone.
Over 90% of Indian migrant workers who work in the Arab Gulf are semi-skilled and unskilled workers.