Other guest workers in US side with abused Indians

March 16th, 2008 - 11:23 pm ICT by admin  

New York, March 16 (IANS) Indian workers in a Mississippi shipyard who have alleged they were victims of human trafficking have found support from guest workers from other countries. Representatives of the 100 Indian workers met with other members of the Alliance of Guest Workers for Dignity in New Orleans, Louisiana, to share common experiences and discuss how to cooperate in ending abuses of the guest worker programme in the US.

The Indian workers escaped the inhuman living and working conditions at the Signal International shipyard in Pascagoula, Mississippi, and have filed a lawsuit against the company and their recruiters in India and the US.

Members of the workers’ alliance from countries like Mexico, Brazil, Honduras, Guatemala and Bolivia expressed their complete support for the Indian workers and showed enthusiasm about joining them in their next action to raise awareness about the hidden face of the guest worker programme.

Under the programme, cheap non-agricultural labour is brought in on H2B visas of six to 10 months’ duration.

The meeting in New Orleans was attended by about two score people, Saket Soni, director of the New Orleans Workers Centre for Racial Justice, told IANS.

Meanwhile, Indian Ambassador Ronen Sen was perusing the report of the embassy’s fact-finding team before deciding on a meeting with the workers.

After the meeting, Paul Konar, a worker from Kerala, said, “We listened to others and found our stories are similar. We think of the US as a great opportunity but there are people in this country who play with our lives. When the systems and the laws of this country do not work, they must be changed.”

Hemunt Khottan, from New Delhi, added: “Now that we are united and we are fighting, the US and Indian governments should ensure that it does not happen again and those who enslaved us must be punished.”

Soni said abuse of the guest worker programme has been particularly bad in the Gulf of Mexico states like Mississippi and Louisiana, which had severe labour shortages following Hurricane Katrina in 2005. His group has since organised some groups of victims from other countries.

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