India’s welfare minister has claimed that Indian women “are being sold like products in a retail shop” to Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states.
Women are sold for £4000 in Saudi Arabia and around £2000 in Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait.
Palle Raghunatha Reddy said that women from Andhra Pradesh and the neighbouring state of Telangana are being denied human rights and held in horrific conditions in Gulf state jails after fleeing their employers or overstaying their visas.
In a letter to India’s foreign minister, Reddy appealed to the national government to protect women from overseas recruitment agents who sell them on as if they came from a “retail shop” after luring them from their homeland on the promise of triple pay.
Female migrants in Saudi are tricked into overstaying their visas and jailed on petty offences while their cases are heard before being sold to the highest bidder, the minister alleged.
Experts estimate that over twenty thousand Indian women have been detained in poor conditions having travelled from Andhra and neighbouring state Telangana.
There have been complaints of physical abuse mistreatment, non-payment of salary and denial of fundamental human rights.
Reddy confirmed that more than 25 women currently in Gulf jails have sought help from the Andhra Pradesh state government in the past few months.
He added: “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.
“Instructions should be issued to Indian embassy officials in Gulf countries to interfere in the matter and provide necessary help in terms of food, clothing and shelter.”
In response the Indian government confirmed it would send ministers to Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. next month to investigate the conditions migrants are being held in.
An official from Andhra Pradesh meanwhile said the state authority is in the process of appointing lawyers to provide legal aid to Indian prisoners in the Gulf region.