Scared to return home

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Aug 9 2007

Native land a frightening thought
Noor Mohamed, Bahrain Tribune

It was in 1990 when he landed in Bahrain.
Even before the Gulf war.
And though he dreams of his home city Mumbai he has not turned his footsteps homeward.
Another victim of the free visa menace Mohammed Kunji is now 48 years and has just heard about the amnesty.
Plans to go back to Mumbai have been several times but never came to fruition.
No money. No documents.
An agent had vanished with them. Same old story.
Spent BD1,000, there was an agent at the airport, took his passport (goodbye document) and there he was: stranded for the next 17 years.
The little girls are now in their mid-twenties.
Except that back home there is a twist. Since he stopped funding his wife and two daughters being very erratically paid the past seven years have passed in silence.
Now, he is scared to pack his little bag again and make that move.
He is more than just a little afraid that daddy won’t be marching home hurrah, hurrah and the reality is the family has moved on.
They might not even want him.
In the first few years he met the agent several times and gave him BD 200 twice to pay for getting his visa stamped.
In the 17 years he has worked as a restaurant cleaner, a painter, a construction site labourer, in a cold store and all the money he saved was lost in a scam that grew out of the internal private raffle called ‘chitti’ in which a kitty is made and there is a monthly payoff.
Often enough the ‘treasurer’ decamps with the collection.
But for Kunji the trauma of going is now becoming an obsession. What if his wife and daughters whom he last spoke to in 2000 have nothing to stay.
He looks forlorn and broken in spirit and says if they lock the door, he has no key. Literally and figuratively.
Standing at the Indian Embassy on a Saturday morning he realises it is closed.
Kunji will be back again this morning with hope in his heart and the bite of fear.

Advancing the rights of migrant workers throughout the Middle East