Trafficked Indians allege inaction as embassy reviews report

By Parveen Chopra, IANS

New York : Indian workers in a Mississippi shipyard who have alleged they were victims of human trafficking are unhappy that Ambassador Ronen Sen has not met them yet. Officials said Sen would take action after reviewing later Friday the embassy team’s report on the allegation.

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Talking to IANS Thursday, India’s Consul General in Houston S.M. Gavai denied the workers’ charges of inaction. The Houston consulate looks afterMississippi.

“Two senior officials sent by the embassy to ascertain facts have met everybody concerned, including representatives of the workers who have quit and those who are still working at Signal International, the NGOs and lawyers helping them, as well as Signal’s management,” he said.

The team returned Thursday and after reviewing its report Friday, Sen will take necessary action, Gavai added.

The matter in any case is sub judice now, he pointed out, as the workers have filed a lawsuit in a US federal court. They have also filed for immigration visas – they were brought to US on temporary H2B visas for guest workers.

The workers, meanwhile, reiterated their disappointment with Sen and claimed that Minister of Overseas Indian Affairs Vayalar Ravi had assured them that the ambassador would meet and help them.

“The workers understand Ambassador Sen’s continuing failure to respond to their request as a refusal to meet with them,” said Saket Soni, director of New Orleans Workers’ Centre for Racial Justice, which is helping the 100 Indian workers who quit Signal’s shipyard in Pascagoula, Mississippi.

Soni also criticised the embassy team for “breaking every established practice and protocol on investigations of trafficking by meeting with the trafficker before they met with the victim”.

On the progress of the lawsuit filed last Friday on behalf of the 500 workers against Signal and the recruiters in US and India, Soni told IANS: “The defendants are being formally served with the complaint. After that they will have 20 days to respond”.

The matter with the US Department of Justice is also progressing smoothly, he said.