Facing travel bans, Indian nurse in Kuwait longs to return home

New Delhi, Sep 13 (Calcutta Tube) An Indian nurse in Kuwait is very ill and desperate to get back to India, but her employer has slapped six cases against her and the Kuwaiti government has imposed three travel bans on her. Now the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs (MOIA) has stepped in to help her.

Lijimol George, 30, wonders if she will ever be free to return home to Kerala.

‘I don’t know if I will ever be able to return home. Case after case is being filed against me. I was made to sign on many papers which were all in Arabic and didn’t know what I was signing on at the time. My husband is here with me, but because of all these issues and trying to get a release, he is about to lose his job. We have no idea if this struggle will ever end and I can go home,’ Lijimol told IANS, sobbing on phone from Kuwait.

Lijimol married Jinesh K.J., a hotel employee in Kuwait, in August 2008. Three months into her pregnancy, she developed heavy bleeding and pain and requested her employer, Dr Talal Sulaiman Falah Al Ali, who ran the cosmetic clinic, for leave. The request was allegedly turned down by Talal, forcing her to continue working under unfavourable health conditions. Lijimol had to be rushed to the hospital Dec 8, 2008, when she was found unconscious at the clinic. She suffered a miscarriage.

‘Miscarriage and the workload traumatised me. I was very upset, and days after that I suffered severe burns (Dec 15, 2008) due to a mishap in the kitchen. My right arm, face and hair got burnt… I still haven’t recovered from the burns and miscarriage (she sobs)… It hurts me even more that all these things were happening just months after I got married,’ she said.

Lijimol was advised 45 days rest by her doctor to recover from the burns, but her employer, she claimed, kept harassing and insisting she resume work despite being told of her medical condition.

‘My only option was to resign at the time and go back to India to get treated because here treatment is expensive and I didn’t make that kind of money and neither did my husband. I knew Dr Talal wouldn’t not allow me to go on leave; so I resigned on 16th of Aug (2008) which he didn’t accept,’ she said.

Lijimol and husband approached the Indian embassy in Kuwait seeking help for a release from Talal – her sponsor- as her health had deteriorated.

In December 2008 the embassy tried to persuade Talal to resolve the matter amicably, but according to MOIA sources, Talal refused to cooperate and filed a forgery case against Lijimol in January 2009 and consequently a travel ban was imposed on her.

Though the authority that investigated the matter dismissed the charge in April 2009, the same day Talal filed a promissory note case against Lijimol and another travel ban was imposed.

‘Our embassy tried an out-of-court settlement of the case with Dr Talal between May and June (2009) and we helped her put together Kuwaiti Dinar 2,000 (Rs.323,000) as demanded by him for withdrawing all cases against her … it failed because of the unreasonable conditions put forth by Dr Talal,’ an official from the MOIA, who was unwilling to be named, told IANS.

Dr Talal subsequently filed four more cases against Lijimol with further travel bans. He put forth the condition that if Lijimol wrote an apology in national English daily Arab Times Kuwait, accepting all the charges against her, along with paying him Kuwaiti Dinar 2,000, she would be set free. However, the embassy and Lijimol declined to do so.

‘Writing an apology is yet another trick to trap me. Of course, I didn’t do it and even the embassy did not accept the demand,’ Lijimol said.

Lijimol’s lawyer soon refused to fight any new case slapped on her, which Lijimol claimed was due to the lawyer’s closeness with Dr Talal. The embassy has arranged for another lawyer at its cost, but the problem stands unresolved.

‘We are trying to do everything possible to bring her back to India. Our embassy there and the ministry here is working to help her. But the issue has escalated and we have appointed a new lawyer to fight the case,’ the MOIA official said.

Lijimol’s father-in-law K.P. James told IANS from Kerala: ‘Minister Vayalar Ravi got us a new lawyer. We wrote to the prime minister too, met many politicians and leaders here. I just want my children to come back. What is even worse is that Lijimol’s father is ill. Both his kidneys have failed and he also suffered a massive heart attack. He is refusing to take any treatment till she gets here. Will he or I ever see my children?’

The MOIA informed IANS that the embassy is constantly communicating with the Kuwaiti ministry of foreign affairs to intervene in the matter and cancel the absconding case against Lijimol, return her educational certificates as well as lift the travel ban on her.

Lijimol began working at Dr Talal’s clinic in 2006 and by law after three years of working an employee is entitled to a release from the employer without much ado.

Lijimol is scared to step out in the open, nursing her burns and a uterus infection of two years. She hopes to return home soon, and see her ill father.

(Lakshmi Krishnakumar can be contacted at lakshmi.k@ians.in)

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