"There’s no point fighting. Take your passports and go home”.
That’s what an official at the labour section of the Indian Consulate in Dubai is alleged to have told 13 Indian workers, who had gone to the consulate office to submit a written complaint.
The men have been stranded ever since the owner of the company that employed them absconded to India without paying them a salary for nine months.
A total of 15 labourers are affected, of which 13 are from India.
“When we submitted our papers at the labour section, the official told us that it was better if we took our passports and left the country,” elaborated Anil. “He told us there was no point in waiting here.”
When Emirates 24|7 escalated this issue to a top official, he said: “The workers must stay back and fight for their rights”.
Since the issue is in a labour court, he felt it was important for them to stay back and seek justice. “However, if they want to leave, then it is entirely their decision.”
The Indian Consulate, he added, would extend their support to their cause, only after the case has been thoroughly investigated.
“We will hear both sides of the story. We have to check whether the workers violated any rule, or if the company has done something wrong.
“If we find that the workers’ complaint is genuine then we will definitely take it up with the company.”
The top official said he would personally look into the matter. “We don’t turn away any workers. We do help whoever comes to us,” he said.
The Indian Workers' Resource Centre (IWRC), where the men have filed a complaint has asked them to continue their fight.
The 15 workers who are fighting their company in a labour court over unpaid salaries are unsure if they should give up the fight or continue to make the rounds of the court until their final settlement is paid.
With the month-long stay in their temporary one-room accommodation coming to an end, the men are concerned about what they should do.
“Our local sponsor had told us that he would give us our passports and we can leave,” says worker Anil Kumar, “But, we decided to stay and fight because we want to be paid for our work.
“There is no point going home without taking our money.”
During the last hearing on July 26, the court has asked the labourers to come back after 15 days.
Although the court had earlier passed a verdict in their favour, ordering the company to pay amounts ranging from Dh21,000 to Dh30,000 to each worker depending on each individual case, it was stalled after the owner appealed against it.
Since then, the owner has travelled to India and hasn’t returned claiming he is stuck due to medical emergency.
“Many are advising us to take our passports (from the sponsor) and leave. They say there is no point in waiting,” says Anil.
As each day passes, the men are struggling to survive. Their basic necessities like food is being taken care of by a few local well-wishers.
The company had refused to pay them for nine months, with false promises that it would be sorted soon. But when the situation didn’t improve, the men approached the court.
The men, who have been moved out from their official accommodation in Al Quoz to a one-bed shelter in Satwa, are unsure if their persistence will work in their favour.