Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Poverty, Poor Conditions Drive Gulf Migrant Workers to Suicide


Among those who have committed suicide in the past year is Masubathi Maripan, a worker who came to Bahrain from the Tamil Nadu province in southern India. His story shows hints of the vicious cycle of poverty that claims the lives of migrant workers in the Gulf. It is a cycle where pre- and post-migration factors are intertwined. Maripan worked as a metalsmith for a major construction company whose owner had commercial ties to the prime minister of Bahrain. The company breached its agreement with Maripan and his co-workers and lowered their monthly wage to 45 Bahraini dinars [about $120], instead of the agreed upon monthly wage of 100 dinars [about $265]. After several attempts involving the Indian Embassy and the Ministry of Labor, workers were not able to get their agreed upon wage. They decided to stop working. The construction company filed a lawsuit against the striking workers,and courts ruled in favor of the company. Workers were sentenced to compensate the company for suffered losses. The fines ranged from 400 to 600 dinars [$1,060-1,590]. According to protocol, a decision was issued preventing the workers from leaving the country before paying the fines.

Maripan, along with more than 100 of his Indian co-workers, found themselves unemployed and banned from working for any other employer without the consent of the construction company that was demanding they pay their fines. On top of that, they were barred from traveling without the consent of the company, which had only paid them half of the agreed upon wage from the outset. Maripan saw no way out other than suicide. He was only 33 years old.

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