India workers allege slave-like

conditions by U.S. employer


Russia Herald


More than 300 Indian workers employed by a U.S.-based marine fabrication company have alleged that they are being treated like 'animals' and have formed a committee to raise their concerns against the firm.


Indians working for Signal International LLC, based in Mississippi and Texas, have alleged that they are forced to live and work in slave-like conditions and are unduly exploited.


All the workers were hired under the H2B visa program, also known as a guest worker program.


The employees alleged that they were frequently threatened by the firm with salary reduction and deportation, reported ethnic Indian newspaper Indolink.


According to an Indian worker, Signal raided the workers camp last week. Company representatives entered with armed guards and took away six workers, who were locked up in a room and told that they would be sent back to India.


One of the workers, who had sold all of his possessions to obtain the H2B visa, ran into a bathroom and emerged with blood all over his body, the result of what was believed to be an attempted suicide.


In a statement to local immigrants' rights advocates, representatives of the workers said: 'We paid money to a U.S. lawyer working on behalf of the company and to Indian recruiters. We have proof of this payment. For some of us, this is a lifetime of earnings in India. We all sold our property and our houses to come and work for Signal.


'In India we were promised that we (shall) get green cards and permanent residency. This was not true. We were given temporary H2B visas, which expire July 31, 2007. We have been treated like animals here. We do not know if we will (get) a new visa. We cannot recover the money we have spent on the visa in less than two years.'


To fight for their cause, the affected workers have formed a committee called Signal H2B Employees Organisation. Members are closely monitoring the situation and preventing the company from sending workers back to India.