Indian labourer arrested after exposing Saudi working conditions

Indian labourer arrested after exposing Saudi working conditions
2 min read
23 March, 2016
A foreign worker has been jailed by Saudi authorities after an emotional plea he filmed went viral online.
The whereabouts and condition of Makandar is unknown [Youtube Screenshot]
An Indian labourer who recorded an emotional video on his working conditions in Saudi Arabia has been arrested by authorities, activists said.

Abdul Sattar Makandar, a truck driver who has worked in the kingdom for 23 months, sent the emotional plea to an Indian human rights activist who shared the video on social media.

"I have been in Saudi Arabia for the last 23 months, and have applied for leave to come home over five months ago," a tearful Makandar says in the video.

"But my employer is not letting me go home... My employer doesn't give me a proper salary, neither does he give me money for food," he said, according to Huffington Post India.

The video was viewed more than a million times but was deleted by Kundan Srivastava, the activist backing 35-year-old Makandar, after pressure from the employer, Al Suroor United Group.

"On the same day, I received an email from Makandar's employers demanding the online video be removed, and a fresh video be posted featuring the driver stating that his firm was his 'saviour'. We complied with all the demands hoping that Makandar would be released and return to India soon," Srivastava told The Hindu.

The emotional video that got Makandar
into trouble [YouTube]

The labourer, who was recruited by the company through an Indian agency, was released - but later rearrested by authorities, who claim he had spread "misinformation" online - a serious offence in the hardline kingdom.

The Al Suroor United Group denied his claims, stating he was eligible for leave after two years' service and rejected his claims of non-payment.

Saudi Arabia and its gulf counterparts have been criticised by international human rights organisations for their treatment of foreign labourers.

Global concern has turned on the 1.5 million foreign workers in Qatar in particular after the Gulf state began preparations to host the FIFA World Cup in 2022.

According to a report published by Amnesty International last year, many migrant workers in Qatar face "pathetic" and "oppressive" conditions, with working days starting as early as 4:00am.

Figures published in 2015 claimed more than 1,000 migrant workers died in Qatar while working on World Cup construction sites.