Dubai: Indian missions in the UAE have urged jobseekers to report fake agents who are back in action post peak months of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The call from the missions follows a top Indian official’s warning against recruitment agents putting Indians at risk abroad.
Sanjay Bhattacharyya, secretary to the government of India in the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), this week raised concerns about “unscrupulous agents exploiting Indian citizens and putting them at risk abroad.”
In a tweet posted on his personal Twitter account, the secretary called upon Recruiting Agents (RAs) to act responsibly or else they will be held accountable.
Retweeting his post, the Indian Embassy in Abu Dhabi stated that the mission and the Indian Consulate in Dubai had acted upon complaints against such agents and brought them to justice.
“We encourage everyone to report all such agents. Your proactiveness can change someone’s life,” the mission added.
When contacted, Sandeep Kaushik, second secretary, Press, Information and Culture at the embassy, said there has been a surge in the activities of devious recruitment agents post the COVID-19 lockdown.
“There were such cases earlier as well. But they had come down during the peak of the pandemic. Now cases have started coming up again,” he told Gulf News.
Consul General of India Dr Aman Puri also confirmed that there had been cases of cheating by the agents that had been brought to the notice of the mission of late.
“In the post-COVID world, some sections of the society have become more vulnerable,” he pointed out.
“It is always wise to leave the [home] country as a skilled worker with proper documentation and through proper channels,” he added.
The UAE has a robust system of employment that helps fight recruitment scams.
Officials have time to time issued warnings against people flying into the UAE on visit or tourist visas for job hunting.
The UAE government departments have online systems through which jobseekers can make preliminary verification of the authenticity of the employment offers and entry permits.
The Wage Protection System [WPS] ensures that employees are paid via bank accounts as per the salaries mentioned in their contracts.
However, most often fake recruitments happen with people who still arrive on tourist or visit visas to look for jobs or to take up jobs offered to them back in India, with the promise that they would be given employment visa on arrival.
12 Indian women duped
It was just last month that the consulate reiterated its warning against jobseekers flying into the UAE on visit visas after authorities and social workers worked together to rescue 12 Indian women who were duped by recruitment agents.
Aged between 21 and 46, they were given false hopes of jobs as housemaids. “They were not given proper jobs and they complained of being ill-treated,” said Roop Sidhu, general secretary of the Indian Association in Ajman, who supported the mission in rescuing the maids.
Sidhu had said that Ajman Police had already arrested one agent, while rescuing the first group of seven women who were locked up in an apartment. “We also managed to rescue another group of five women from another accommodation managed by the same agent over the weekend,” he had said.
Nine of those women were eventually repatriated and the rest are in the process of sorting out some legal issues for flying home, Sidhu said on Tuesday.
Action and awareness
Whenever such cases are reported, the diplomats said, the missions report the matter to the local authorities where it is applicable and the government of India and action has been taken in many cases. Licenses have been revoked and agencies have been penalised in such cases.
Kaushik said the government of India and the missions here have been running awareness campaigns against unscrupulous recruiting agents and the dangers of flying on visit visas for job hunt.
However, diplomats said there is a need for better awareness in the community in view of the increase in devious activities of recruiting agents. They urged community organisations to spread the word of caution and prevent compatriots from falling prey to such illegal agents.
Indian community members have been urged to verify job offers and not to fall prey to fake agents. It is also a must for blue-collar workers in India to be recruited only through the ‘eMigrate’ online recruitment portal of the government.
Dr Puri said Indian expats should also play a role individually by assisting people known to them to connect with the missions or the Pravasi Bharatiya Sahayata Kendra (PBSK), a help centre for Indians that also provides the service of verifying job offers in the UAE.
Background work back home
Deepak H. Chhabria, chairman of Mumbai-based Federation of Indian Emigrants’ Management Councils and Associations, however, said the need of the hour is a comprehensive system for awareness and job verification back in India, especially in villages that send blue-collar workers abroad.
“There should be some provision of direct verification of job offers by workers who are not good at using computers or smart technology. There should be some help centres or government-appointed employees who can be posted in villages from where most of the workers go abroad.”
Though federations like his, which has eight pan-India associations of licensed recruitment agencies, can also help in such matters, he said their role often becomes limited.
“We can also help them [workers] with job offer verification and guidelines. But, how many workers know about us and can contact us? It can be done properly only if the government takes it up more vigorously.”
Those who have the means to contact the authorities in the UAE can send email or call the emergency numbers of the missions or the PBSK [ previously known as Indian Workers’ Resource Centre or IWRC], which now operates out of the consulate in Dubai. [see the box]
Offer letters can also be verified through the websites of the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation and visas can be verified through the websites of the UAE Ministry of Interior or Amer Centres in Dubai.
Importance of ‘eMigrate’
Chhabria said the Indian government should also take action against unauthorised agents placing job advertisements in newspapers.
Those who fly on visit or tourist visas with the assurance of jobs from such bogus agents neither get proper employment nor any protection under the Indian or local laws, he pointed out.
Fake and duplicate visas or wrong contracts do not usually occur when workers of Emigration Clearance Required (ECR) passport category come to the UAE through the eMigrate online recruitment system.
This is because the missions share the list of foreign employers verified by it with the Protector of Emigrants offices in India, through which these workers must be recruited overseas. The accountability of the agents in India and foreign employers are also ensured on eMigrate.
However, Chhabria said some of the agents registered under the e-Migrate system are also to be blamed for duping workers in some cases.
“There is a new category of agents who can register with a bank guarantee of just Rs800,000 to recruit 100 workers whereas big recruitment companies have to pay Rs5million as bank guarantee. Some of these new agencies are into hanky-panky businesses and creating complications. There should be stricter monitoring of these agencies and proper verification of the foreign employers associated with them,” he said.
In some cases, he said that there have been cases in which some unscrupulous agents had changed the names of foreign employers in the UAE after copying visas in PDF formats and deleting their original details.
“They have misused the genuine foreign employer’s login details on the eMigrate portal for this,” he said.
Sometimes agents give genuine visit visas and fake employment visas. Such cases are hard to detect in India.
In such cases, Chhabria said, workers would use fake employment visas to board the flight from India and present their genuine visit visa on arrival here.
“When they gain entry, they realise that they don’t have the offered job.”
Ways of duping jobseekers
Indian jobseekers, especially less educated blue-collar workers and debt-laden executives, continue to be coerced into paying huge amounts of money to recruitment agents who lure them with lucrative job offers.
According to Chhabria agents take a minimum of Rs50,000. The charges go up in many cases and many workers have had to loan that money to make payments to agents, expecting to get the promised jobs.
In the scenario of many people losing jobs due to the pandemic, these agents seem to be striking while the iron is hot.
Hence, it is imperative for jobseekers to know the ways in which they are likely to be duped.
Devious agents continue to use fake job offers as a bait to get commission and cheat jobseekers.
Apart from replacing job contracts, forging offer letters, duplicating websites of existing companies and phishing emails are some of the methods used for fake job offers.
Most of the bogus jobs usually carry too-good-to believe offers. They are issued either in the names of fictitious organisations or misuse details of existing organisations.
Fake offers, websites
There have been several cases of fraudsters posing as the representatives and recruiters of schools, hospitals and other companies in the UAE and advertising fake job offers on their behalf.
Some fraudsters even set up fake websites to make their job offers look genuine.
In such a case that happened recently, the website of Sharjah-based Indian healthcare group Al Shams Medical Group was forged by a fake recruitment gang.
“We came to know that they have duplicated our website alshamsmedical.com. They have taken the entire content from our site and just renamed the company as Al Rasel Healthcare,” said Shamsudheen P.A, managing director Al Shams Medical Group.
Subi Sarasan, an insurance coordinator with Al Shams, then sent a request for an appointment with a urologist via the fake website to check how they would respond.
“I was shocked when I got an employment offer as a urologist instead,” said Sarasan.
The offer, a copy of which was given to Gulf News, showed a lucrative package which included a salary of Dh40,000, health insurance for all family members, children’s education support, monthly allowances of Dh20,000 for car maintenance, Dh11,500 for entertainment and recreation, Dh19,000 for travel and events as well as an annual allowance of Dh78,000 for house furnishing.
Sarasan said more than Dh15,000 was sought as commission for processing the employment papers for the money-spinning job.
Shamsudheen said he has reported the matter to the police in Dubai and Sharjah and is expecting action against the fraudsters, including removal of the fake website at the earliest. He added that people should use common sense when seeing such unbelievable offers and high commission or recruitment charges and report the matter to the authorities.
Top 10 tips for safe recruitment of Indian workers
1. Do not travel to the UAE on visit visas for employment based on assurances given by recruiting agencies.
2. Use the eMigrate System for Indian workers as it makes both the recruiting agent as well as the employer accountable.
3. On arrival in the UAE, register yourselves with the missions on their websites so that they can contact you or your family members in India in case of emergencies.
4. Follow government of India’s advice of “Surakshit Jao” and Prashikshit Jao” i.e., “go trained” and “go safe”.
5. Do not sign a second contract after arrival in the UAE, especially if you are shown only the last page.
6. Ensure that employers pay your salaries through WPS only and not in cash. If employer insists on not paying through WPS, report to the missions.
7. If salary is not being paid or is delayed, report it to the missions.
8. Always cross check job offers with missions or PBSK or directly with the company.
9. If you land in trouble after arriving in the UAE, contact the missions or PBSK who will assist and guide you through the situation.
10. Help your compatriots with these messages to prevent anyone from falling prey to devious agents.