Sacked Workers Cry Foul Over Norms, Seek Action Against Firm for Visa Fraud
Thirteen sacked employees of Madurai-based Sivakasi Projects Abroad Private Limited, headquartered in Delhi as Projects Abroad India, submitted a petition to the Collector on Monday demanding action against the company for visa violations. The staff claimed that the firm was violating norms by bringing ‘volunteers’ for work on tourist visas.
The terminated employees alleged that the parent company, Project Abroad, based in the UK, which had its operations in several countries, would send people, especially students, from abroad to work as volunteers in fields such as teaching, nursing, journalism and in orphanages in India. However, the foreigners were sent mostly on tourist visas, said the petitioners.
On a tourist visa, one can visit the country for recreation, sight-seeing or to meet friends or relatives. But to work as a volunteer, one sh-ould apply for employment visa, said a senior official at the Madurai Passport Office. However, in the case of Project Abroad, the company would ask their volunteers not to reveal their actual purpose of visit to the immigration authorities. The volunteers would visit India in the guise of tourists. “Once they had asked a client to name me as his friend without my knowledge,” claimed one of the terminated employees, adding that he would have been in soup had the foreigner been involved in any anti-social activity here.
The clients were reportedly allowed to take up jobs like nursing and even journalism. “They have even administered injections on patients and accompany surgeons during surgeries at some hospitals,” the petitioners alleged.
On one occasion, a French woman who came on a business visa to Madurai, was involved in managerial activities of the Project Abroad company here for more than a year. After the police came for an inquiry with her and left, the company convened a meeting with the employees and instructed them to inform the police that the foreigners had come on tourist visas, said some of the sacked employees, adding that when they raised the issue with the management, their pay was withheld.
However, George Heston, Operations Head, Project-Abroad India, dismissed the allegations and claimed that the company had initiated legal action against the terminated employees.
He, however, refused to comment on the visa procedures followed by them with regard to volunteers from abroad.