Rescued stranded Indian workers finally home

After BWI’s Indian and Romanian trade union affiliates joined hands in helping six stranded Indian migrant workers in Romania, the said workers were finally repatriated and returned to their home state of Tamil Nadu on 16 November. 

BWI-affiliated Thamizhaga Kattida Thozhilalargal Mathiya Sangam (TKTMS) was widely credited for bringing the workers safely back to India. TKTMS President Ponkumar Ponnuswamy recounted how his union was able to pull off the laudable feat. He said that together with BWI Indian Affiliates Council (IAC) Chair Dr. R.C. Khuntia, they contacted the Ministry of External Affairs and the Indian Embassy in Romania. He said that they also worked closely with BWI’s Romanian affiliate, FGS Familia. As a result, immediate relief was provided to the said workers under the India Community Welfare Fund (ICWF) and repatriation procedures were swiftly initiated. 

“We thank the authorities, trade unions and BWI for working together to ensure the safe return home of the stranded workers,” Ponnuswamy said.  

“We pledge to continue and even intensify our efforts to help our fellow workers by educating outbound migrant workers on good practices for safe migration and exposing unscrupulous recruiting agents,” he added. 

It was reported that the repatriated workers were recruited by a private recruitment agency as painters November of last year and assured of Rs. 40,000 (USD 540) in wages per month. An amount of Rs. 250,000 (USD 3,370) was collected from each worker as so-called recruitment fee. They were sent to Romania on tourist visas with the assurance that they will be converted to work visas upon arriving there. 

However, the workers worked in Romania as cleaners under the Westmont Construction & Resources SRL. After two months of working, the workers’ visas expired. They were eventually terminated when the company  ran into financial difficulties.  The workers’ situation worsened when COVID-19 reached Romania forcing the country to impose a hard lockdown.