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How a 'babysitter job' in Kuwait became a nightmare for this Kerala woman

Police suspect the racket headed by Majid had trafficked more than 100 women

human-trafficking-reuters Representational image | Reuters

February is a month Vincy (name changed) would love to forget. On February 14, She started her journey to Kuwait for a “babysitter job” on February 14 this year. She had decided to go there to get her family in Kerala out of financial crisis. But, within two days of reaching Kuwait, she realised it was a trap.

It all started in December 2021, when Vincy saw an advertisement from a recruiting agency, Golden Via, in Kochi. The agency offered a free ticket and VISA to Kuwait in the ad. “I went with my husband to the agency,” she says. “They told us that jobs are available in different sections like cooking, cleaning and babysitting. I opted for a babysitter job [Vincy was an Anganwadi teacher]. They told us that we do not have to pay for a ticket or VISA as they are sending me as part of a scheme of the Narendra Modi government. My husband asked whether he would get a driving job in Kuwait. The agency people said that if he wants to go, we have to pay them Rs 50,000. For women, they said, the only expense is the money for an RT-PCR test and medical test.”

Vincy flew from Kochi to Dubai on February 14. An agent named Shareef received her in Dubai. From there, she flew to Kuwait the next day. She reached the airport around 7pm. Around 9pm, Majid (also known as Gassali), the suspected kingpin in the recruitment scam, came to pick her up from the airport. He took her to his office at Farwaniya and then to a room. Vincy saw five to six other women there. But none of them spoke to her. “Majid had asked not to share my phone number or other details with other women,” she said. The next morning, a Kuwaiti lady (Vincy knows her name as 'Mama' only) came, gave money to Majid and took Vincy to her house.

“From day one, I started working,” she says. “I had to clean bathrooms, wash clothes, plates and do other chores. There was no rest or proper food. I got just one Kuboos to eat daily. I worked from early morning to midnight. She spat on me and assaulted me during work.”

A couple of days later, she complained to Majid. She also said she is not feeling well, and asked him whether he could change the house. Majid asked her to stay there for two or three days more. But nothing changed. “I called my husband and told him what was happening. He asked me to call the agent and request him to change the house." Vincy called Majid again, but he rebuked her. "You came here to do some work, right? There is no job here as a babysitter," he told her. Vincy then told him that the agency in Kochi had told her only about the babysitter jobs. “He (Majid) then called the employees at the Kochi office and put me on a conference call. He scolded them. ‘Is this how you are briefing people who are recruited for work?’ he asked them,” she says.

Majid then asked her to surrender her phone to ‘Mama’. “Majid had instructed Mama not to allow me to use the phone. He also told her that I had complained. So, she grabbed the phone from me and put it in her drawer,” says Vincy. “I begged her in broken English for the phone to call my husband and children but she refused. But later I found my phone while cleaning, and managed to call my husband and informed him that my phone had been seized by Mama.”

Vincy’s husband then met the local agent, Ajumon, who told him that the agency can release Vincy and send her back to India only if he pays Rs 3.5 lakh. “When my husband questioned them, Ajumon shouted at him and asked him to get out of their office.”

Vincy’s lawyer Nishin George says that when Vincy’s husband tried to contact Majid, he threatened him by saying that he will sell her to ISIS if he does not pay. “Perhaps, he was trying to intimidate us. The investigating agencies should find out whether the recruiting agents had any ISIS links,” George says. “But it should be noted such illegal recruiting agencies could be used by terror organisations to entrap people. And what happened to Vincy was a clear case of human trafficking and abduction. I call it an abduction because they demanded ransom.”

George requested the Union home ministry and the Kerala chief minister’s office for help. He also tried contacting the Union external affairs ministry. “Union home ministry and Kerala CMO promptly responded. The special branch of Kerala police was very helpful in this case,” says George. “But we did not get any response from the Union external affairs ministry.”

George also contacted the Kuwait-based Malayali associations for help.

As the pressure mounted, Majid decided to shift Vincy from Mama’s house. “Mama intensified her assaults before relieving me. She hit me with her chappal,” says Vincy. Mama then took Vincy to Majid’s office and left her there. The office employees did not understand what Vincy was saying. So, they called a Malayali woman, working in another agency, to talk to her. “When I explained the conditions, that lady told me that this is how things work in Kuwait. ‘Why did you come from Kerala if it was not for working,’ she asked me,” says Vincy.

Majid then took Vincy to the house where she was kept initially, and was locked up there along with three other women. Two of them were from Kerala. They told Vincy that they also got duped as they were brought to Kuwait by Majid for nursing and babysitting jobs. They told her about the kind of assaults they had faced in the Kuwaiti families. “One had even tried to die by suicide,” says Vincy.

Vincy managed to share her location with one of the Malayali associations in Kuwait without Majid's knowledge. Rafeeque T.P. and Sharafu Chittaripilakkil came to her rescue. “They came near the door of the house and asked us whether we had eaten anything,” says Vincy. “When Majid found them, he was furious and tried to confront the duo.” But Rafeeque and Sharafu warned him that they have connections in the embassy and they will not allow him to run his illegal recruiting agency. “Majid then called his Kuwaiti sponsor,” says Rafeeque, who has been working in Kuwait for more than a decade. “We told him about the seriousness of the act Majid had done. The sponsor then told Majid to release the women. But Majid did not pay any money for the days they had worked.”

Vincy spent nearly two weeks in Kuwait before returning to Kerala.

Rafeeque says that the Kuwaiti government is now more vigilant about not allowing mistreatment of household workers and maids. “But still, a lot of people end up in trouble and traps,” he says. “So, those who want to come to Kuwait should consult with agencies like NORKA ROOTS or with Indian associations in Gulf countries.”

Rafeeque, however, rubbishes the claims that Majid was recruiting for the ISIS. “Nobody can transport people from Kuwait to places like Syria,” he says. “Here the government is strict in those terms. This was an illegal recruitment agency. That's it. Somebody is using these ISIS allegations to spread Islamophobia.”

Kerala Police initially lodged an FIR under IPC section 420 (cheating), 506 (criminal intimidation) and 406 (criminal breach of trust). Recently, they also invoked section 370, which is a non-bailable offence, dealing with human trafficking and slave trade. The NIA started its probe in the case after section 370 was charged. The agency is investigating the ISIS angle, too. The NIA took the statement from Vincy on June 17. Meanwhile, Kerala Police arrested Ajumon. The police suspect the racket headed by Majid had trafficked more than 100 women using the same modus operandi. The probe is on.


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