Shahid was trafficked to Saudi Arabia from his home in India after being given false promises of good, well-paid work. His passport was taken away and he was forced to work as a shepherd on a huge farm, despite his objections. Anti-Slavery International has found that Shahid’s experience is now a common one, with many Indians travelling to the Persian Gulf and being forced to perform more menial jobs than they had agreed to.
When I arrived, my passport was taken from me and I was told I was going to be a shepherd, not work in the job I was promised. I protested – I was educated and trained – I did not come to Saudi Arabia to be a shepherd. My employer said things had changed, then he ‘gave’ me to someone else.
This new person was a police officer. He also had a farm – a big farm. It was so big that he had a helicopter that he flew sometimes to remote parts of the farm. I was forced to be a shepherd there – to do ‘animal husbandry’. I lived out in the desert, in a shed with a tarpaulin roof. I was given basic food, it was not enough. It was some rice, dahl, also the same food as the animals, animal fodder.
I was not allowed to leave the farm. He took my passport, but did not give me a residence permit. I couldn’t go anywhere without it. Luckily, I met a worker from India nearby – he leant me his phone and I messaged my family here. This person was working in the farm for more than two years, but he chose to continue since he had no other way of repaying debts back home.
I left India to try and earn more money – to have a good job. I was told by the agent – that I had to pay 85,000 rupees (approx. £880) to him. I thought he was the agent, but there was another one in Mumbai. The one in the village was a sub-agent. I didn’t ask if he was registered – I didn’t know. I gave him the money. I received the contract only with the air ticket, a day before my departure. It was a piece of paper in Arabic.
One day, after I had told my family [who had complained via an Indian Government mechanism], the ‘employer’ dropped me at the airport. He said I could go home and gave me my passport and a flight ticket. I didn’t get any wages at all – he said that he deducted the air ticket cost from my wages and there was none left.
I mortgaged my farm land for this.
Narrative as told to Anti-Slavery International. The narrator’s name has been changed.