Kuwait tragedy puts focus on expat labour - Hindustan Times
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Kuwait tragedy puts focus on expat labour

ByHT Editorial
Jun 13, 2024 09:27 PM IST

The Indian government should nudge its counterparts in the GCC to ensure the well-being of Indian workers

The fire that killed more than 40 Indian nationals at a building housing foreign workers in Kuwait is perhaps the worst incident of its kind involving migrant labourers in West Asia in decades. Close to 200 workers were living in the seven-storey building and many of them suffocated in their sleep. The preliminary investigations done by the Kuwaiti authorities and the comments of senior officials have pointed to overcrowding in the building and the violation of safety provisions. Kuwait’s interior minister has already directed authorities to crack down on all safety violations and to address the overcrowding of expatriate workers in buildings.

Union Minister of State for External Affairs Kirti Vardhan Singh meets with an Indian who was injured in the Mangaf fire incident, at Jaber Hospital, in Kuwait on Thursday. (ANI Photo) (India in Kuwait-X) PREMIUM
Union Minister of State for External Affairs Kirti Vardhan Singh meets with an Indian who was injured in the Mangaf fire incident, at Jaber Hospital, in Kuwait on Thursday. (ANI Photo) (India in Kuwait-X)

Unlike in the past, India’s missions in West Asian countries have comprehensive procedures to deal with such contingencies, as well as community welfare funds to meet the immediate needs of the victims of such disasters. A junior minister has also reached Kuwait to oversee relief measures and efforts to repatriate the bodies of the dead. However, the tragedy has irreversibly affected some 40 families, and the Indian authorities owe it to them to ensure that more is done to protect the rights of expatriate workers and their loved ones.

Under the “kafala” or sponsorship system for managing the migrant workforce in Kuwait, the employer has an oversize role in ensuring the rights and working and living conditions of the workers. Several human rights organisations have said that migrant workers do not have adequate legal protections in the country and remain vulnerable to abuse and other factors. They have also raised concerns about their living conditions. The Indian government has excellent relations with most members of the Gulf Cooperation Council. It should nudge its counterparts in the region to ensure the well-being of Indian workers. That’s the deeper healing touch the country’s overseas workforce needs.

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