'Ransom' demand for stranded UAE-based 'migrants' to Europe

Workers were lured with offers of asylum in Greece, but are stranded in Iran

A group of 50 workers, mainly from Pakistan and Bangladesh, who were recruited in the UAE to work in Greece and other European countries, are stranded in Iran - victims of unscrupulous agents who are demanding ‘ransom’ from their families to send them onwards to the agreed destination.

Their friends and relatives are desperately trying to raise money to bail them out.

Speaking to Emirates 24|7, Yousuf, brother of one of the Bangladeshi workers stranded in Iran, said: “I am quite worried about my younger brother who used to working in Abu Dhabi. I don’t know how he ended up in Iran. He was promised a job with a salary equivalent to Dh10,000. Many Bangladeshi workers opted for it.

Yousuf said 25 to 50 Bangladeshi workers were selected by agents who promised to send them to Greece via Iran. They claimed that the first batch of workers had already reached Greece.

“One of my employees went to work in Greece. His family now got a call from Iran, asking them to send an amount equivalent to 60,000 Bangladeshi taka. We don’t know how many employees are stranded in Iran,” said an Indian businessman, who is running an electro-mechanical company in the UAE.

The Bangladeshi citizens who are stranded in Iran used to work in the UAE and were aspiring migrants to Europe via Greece, a member of the European Union.

Recruiting agents say migrants from Bangladesh and Pakistan pay huge amounts to smuggle themselves into Greece and their journey takes a few days to weeks.

Absconding workers and people without proper documents are also offered asylum status in Greek, a country which has witnessed large scale inflow of illegal immigrants.

“We are trying to collect the money and send it to Iran. We don’t want to take a risk because my brother is stranded and his life will be in danger, if we don’t pay the agents,” said the brother of another stranded Bangladeshi worker.

“These agents don’t have any contacts here and they are just calling us from Iran with a request to send money,” he added.

Handicapped Indian stranded; Boss used passport for bail-out

A handicapped and unemployed Indian has been desperately trying to retrieve his passport, which was handed over to his employer for safe custody, and to prove his innocence before the Sharjah public prosecutor’s office where his passport is pledged for a payment of Dh80,000.

Twenty-eight-year-old Haneef Mohammed Aliyaba (Indian passport No. E4282396) has partial disability on his right leg due to a polio attack when he was very young. His problems are caused by a bankrupt and absconding sponsor who allegedly misused his passport to obtain bail in a cheque bouncing case. 

After all efforts to retrieve his passport failed, Haneef has now approached the Sharjah public prosecutor. He says he has been unable to go home for the last two-and-a-half years, and even when his father died on April 1 this year, he could not attend his funeral back home.

Claiming that he is innocent and never agreed to deposit his passport on behalf of his sponsor, he has sent a mercy petition to the chief public prosecutor of Sharjah Court:  “My UAE residence visa number is 201/2007/2642896 and I am a handicapped person by birth.  I was working for a company called Moon View Commercial Broker LLC in sales from 20th February, 2008 to 15th December, 2010.” 

As is the practice in many companies, the employee’s passport was in the custody of his sponsor Abdul Muthalib Madiker Edinebba, an Indian national. “I told him to renew my visa which was due in January 2011, but now my visa has also expired,” Haneef said.

When his employer came under financial stress and faced cheque bouncing cases, he allegedly misused the employee’s passport. “He was put in prison and came out on bail by surrendering his passport to the public prosecutor. Later on he claimed his passport after depositing a relative’s passport with the prosecution. When the owner of the second passport demanded his passport back, the employer deposited my passport without my consent,” Haneef said.

Haneef says his employer had sought his permission to pledge his passport but he had refused. He alleges that his signature was forged to pledge his passport to the public prosecution and the employer has since been missing. “I have never visited the Sharjah public prosecutor’s office nor gave my consent to deposit my passport. I did not sign any consent letter to my sponsor,” says his complaint to the Sharjah public prosecution.

“I have been trying desperately to trace my sponsor. When I failed, I went to the Labour Ministry to file a labour complaint against the company. Even though my visa and labour card had expired, I approached the Labour Ministry. The Labour Ministry officials advised me to contact the public prosecutor’s office to regain my passport,” Haneef said. He came to know the complexity of the issue only when he tried to make out an outpass to leave the country.

“I also lodged a case against my sponsor on 18 July, 2011 and there was one hearing. My father had been admitted to a hospital and he was in the ICU and his condition was very critical. My wife had also fallen down in my home and she was admitted to the hospital. My father was every day asking about me, I desperately wanted to go home and see my father, wife and my three children,” Haneef said.

His father died on April 1 and now he does not see any ray of hope of going home. “I have to pay Dh80,000 to get my passport back. I don’t have any job for more than a year and I am surviving with the help of a few good friends,” he said.

Indian lawyer Ibrahim Khaleel said he has handled Haneef’s case. “We have handled similar cases in the past. Some employers misuse the employees’ passports to take loans or to get bail from courts.

“In one case, an Andhra worker is stranded after he bailed out a woman by pledging his passport. The woman absconded and the worker is unable to leave the country because his passport is with the public prosecution. Similarly, in Haneef’s case, he has to either pay the due amount or trace his sponsor.”

Poor Haneef can neither pay Dh80,000 in the court to regain his passport or trace his missing former employer who pledged his passport in court. He cannot even work to save enough money to get his passport back.

Man locked up compatriot for Dh600,000 ransom

A Chinese allegedly kidnapped, confined and threatened a compatriot to force the victim's girlfriend to pay Dh600,000 in ransom, the Dubai Criminal Court heard.

WC, 36, visitor, was also accused, along with with another convict and other illegal entrants, of assaulting the victim, BH, in July 2008.

The fingerprints of the accused were found in the room where the victim was confined, according to the records.

The Court of the First Instance had awarded WW, the first accused in the case, ten years in jail followed by deportation and the Appeals Court had upheld the verdict in June 2009.

The court adjourned the case to February 28.

(Image courtesy Sutterstock)

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