Migrant workers in Mauritius

Forced to stay on what turned out not to be the paradise island.

Modern Day Slavery

with 5 comments

What sounds like a sweet company is engaged in some sour business – migrant workers from Nepal forced to stay with Candytex, St. Pierre, Mauritius.

11 months; this is how long it took nine migrant workers from Nepal to realise that Mauritius is not the place for them, due to their working and living conditions.

Together with trade unionist Veena Dholah of General Workers Federation (GWF) we enter into a big factory room; a group of twelve migrant workers from Nepal greet us. They entered Mauritius a year ago, with the hope of providing for their families back home. Ramesh, who worked in the Saudi Arabian textile industry for 8 years, tells us how he enjoyed better working- and living conditions there – a statement that was quite shocking to us. When inspecting the dormitory we understand why.


Ramesh with his passport. 

The dormitory is found on the third floor of the factory building. It looks like an old production space, which now hosts 34 migrant workers from Nepal. There are bunk beds lined up along the walls, separated by hanging blankets and sheets. In the middle of the room there is a small television set, overlooking the open kitchen space and toilet. Imagined being hired as a cooker for 33 people, out of which 31 are machinists, and you neither have a fridge nor a table for preparation. The potatoes are spread around on the concrete floor, and there is no real storage space for the food. There is no water connection in the kitchen, and the one in the bathroom is not functioning. This means they have to carry the water from the ground floor to the third floor – totally unacceptable. The smell from the toilets is horrible, as there is no running water to flush the toilets. Isn’t this a big threat to their well-being? As if this is not enough, they also feel mistreated doing work for the boss’ wife, who is constantly harassing them. The boss is never there.


A health-threatening toilet, with a non-functioning water supply.

 

Ramesh has two children living in Nepal, his 15-year-old daughter Thara and 12-year-old son Rajesh. He phones them once in a while, but it is extremely expensive. It cost him 24,000 Rs (£527) to leave his family, money he had to borrow. His contract is being kept downstairs by the company, which he does not have a copy of, even though this is illegal. He is lucky to have his passport, which is not normally the case. So technically he is free to go back home to his family, but being paid 16,57 Rs (£o,36) an hour, he can not afford the 17,000 Rs (£373) a flight ticket would cost. Ramesh has contacted Nepal’s high commissioner in Mauritius, but he refused to help. He has also contacted the Nepali recruitment agent, Jyoti, regarding the conditions, without any luck. The agent has simply cut him off. What seems even more suspicious is the fact that Ramesh was made to sign his contract in a hotel in New Delhi, a third-part country, caught in between his home and his destination.


The kitchen.

The 9th of June eight of the workers wrote a letter to their boss, giving their employer a one-month notice. They have had enough! We are told that other workers are suffering the same way, namely 65 workers from Madagascar experiencing equally bad conditions. So far 40 have left. Furthermore there are currently 26 workers from Bangladesh, however the initial number remains unknown.


Maria Louise, Jeppe and the workers who want to return to their families in Nepal.

Since September 2010 the workers have not received a meal allowance, and the salary, which has decreased from 5600 (£123) to 5036 Rs (£110)a month, does not cover much. “Even if we are paid 10,000 Rs a month, we will not stay,” he tells us. All this has been really shocking to us; it reminds us of modern day slavery.


Hand-written notice to their boss.

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Written by Maria Louise

July 1, 2011 at 11:26 am

5 Responses

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  1. That’s sad… But great story!

    Saheen

    July 1, 2011 at 4:59 pm

  2. Good report. I wonder why the embassies of these nationals do not defend their rights?

    Mike Sinnott

    July 4, 2011 at 12:57 pm

  3. […] On Friday the 1st of July we had a one-page article in l’express weekly. Although the journalist changed our article slightly, we are happy to reach out to the entire country this way. The original article can be found here. […]

  4. […] went on a dormitory inspection in St. Pierre, Mauritius. The article we wrote about it can be found here. The workers gave us the permission to share what they told us with the public, including […]

  5. […] Check this out for a glimpse of the hardships some people face whislt trying to forge a better lif… […]


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