Days after THE WEEK highlighted the plight of Indian seafarers stranded in Iran, Indian authorities in Tehran managed to bring back one of them.
31-year-old Yaseen Shah, a native of Karwar, Karnataka, is on his way back to India after the Indian missions in Iran in coordination with Iranian authorities facilitated his return at the highest level. The officials have facilitated recovery of dues from his employer, provision of exit visa and return ticket and other facilities. He will be arriving back in Bengaluru next week.
He sent a message stating he deeply appreciated the efforts and cooperation of the Prime Minister’s Office for providing him appropriate assistance and facilitating his return. The New Delhi-based Indian World Forum was following up his case with multiple ministries in India including ministry of external affairs and ministry of shipping.
On July 15, Yaseen Shah had written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and raised serious national security concerns over the exploitation of stranded Indians in Iran.
Yaseen, a seafarer who claimed to be cheated by the recruitment and placement services agents to the tune of Rs 7 lakh, had been languishing in Iran for 600 days without any source of income. In his letter to the prime minister, he had claimed that he had been abandoned on the inoperative vessel ‘Payam 2’ at Khorramshahr Port by his employers since January 12, 2020.
Yaseen had alleged that on his arrival in Iran, his employers, including the local agents, forced him to sign malafide one-sided contracts and undertakings in the local language that indemnified the employer against any compensation or claim by the employee. His local permits, including visa, had expired six months back and he was surviving on mercy of local good Samaritans for food. He had further revealed that another Indian youth Sandeep Sharma, a native of Punjab who was employed on vessel ‘Arj’, faced similar atrocities and died on May 24 this year due to negligence of agents and employers including lack of basic facilities and non-availability of medical assistance to him.
Five other Indian seafarers, who were earlier arrested in Iran in February last year, were released after over 400 days on March 9, 2021. They had also expressed their plight through a video message to the Indian authorities. The Indian citizens—Aniket Sham Yenpure and Mandar Milind Worlikar from Mumbai, Naveen Singh from Uttarakhand, Pranav Kumar from Bihar and Thamizhselvan Rengasamy from Tamil Nadu—are yet to return to India as the Iranian authorities have not returned their passports and other documents till now. They are stuck in Chabahar where India is building a port worth $200 million.
Puneet Singh of the Indian World Forum claimed that "these seafarers belonging to lower middle class families have been duped by their respective recruitment and placement services agents in India" who in "collusion with their international partners promised them hefty paying jobs in Gulf”. Puneet Singh added that "each of them has been extorted to the tune of Rs 500,000 as charges towards arranging overseas employment”.
The forum also urged the ministry of home affairs, Ministry of external affairs and ministry of shipping to take stringent punitive action against the recruitment and services placement agents and all other accused involved in the human trafficking racket.