Indian workers blast ministry for meeting US recruiter

March 13th, 2008 - 8:31 pm ICT by admin  


New York, March 13 (IANS) Indian guest workers in the US have criticised the ministry of overseas Indian affairs (MOIA) for entertaining a manager from Signal International, the US company they have sued for trafficking over 500 such workers. Signal general manager Darrell Snyder met MOIA officials in New Delhi Tuesday to deny that the workers were promised green cards in exchange for $20,000 as they claimed.

“Snyder is the very man who came after me with an armed guard and tried to illegally arrest and deport me after we began to organise for our rights last year,” said Sabulal Vijayan, former Signal worker.

Tushar Sheth, member of the workers’ legal team from the Asian American Legal Defence and Education Fund, argued: “We have documentation proving that Signal’s recruiters promised these workers green cards and permanent residency time and again.”

Sheth claimed workers have receipts signed by Indian recruiter Sachin Dewan saying “Employment Based Permanent Residency Visa” and similar ones from Signal’s US lawyer Malvern Burnett.

The workers are also critical of Ambassador Ronen Sen for not responding to their calls for a meeting. They again conveyed the demand through K.P. Pillai and Alok Pandey, two Indian embassy officials who have come down to New Orleans.

New Orleans Workers’ Centre director Saket Soni said in a press release, “It’s shocking. The US Department of Justice is investigating Signal and its recruiters, but Ambassador Sen remains silent while over 100 Indian workers’ lives hang in the balance.”

The 100 workers had quit work at Signal’s shipyard in Mississippi.

“The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is meeting with workers to hear how Signal and its recruiters exploited and abused them, but the MOIA prefers to meet with a trafficker who had Indian workers detained at gunpoint,” Soni said.

“US Congressman George Miller is demanding details of the crime while Indian diplomats are in Mississippi talking to the criminals.”

The Alliance of Guest Workers for Dignity and its legal team filed a class-action lawsuit against Signal and its recruiters in US federal court Friday on behalf of over 500 Indian workers

The Indian government has responded by suspending the licences of Dewan and Mumbai recruiter S. Mansur & Company, which had also been recruiting for Signal, reportedly charging money for temporary H2B visas.

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