Stranded Indian nurse returns home after a long battle

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Tintu Stephen receives her exit visa from Director General of Passports in Asir Brig. Gen. Saad Bin Ibrahim Al-Hussien.

Saudi Gazette

JEDDAH —
An Indian nurse who was stranded in Saudi Arabia along with her newborn baby following a dispute with her employer finally left the Kingdom on Saturday after a long legal battle.

Though 28-year-old Tintu Stephen had won a ruling in her favor from the labor court in Abha, she was barred from leaving the Kingdom because her employed had filed an appeal in the higher court. However, in a rare move the passport authorities granted her an exit-only visa without the consent of her employer after the intervention of the Saudi Human Rights Commission and other high-ranking officials.

The employer had asked Stephen to deposit an amount of SR31,800 as a guarantee to ensure her return to the Kingdom after vacation to continue on her job until the contract period was over. The employer also had filed a lawsuit in the court with the demand. However, the court rejected the employer’s demand, paving the way for her return home.

The troubles of Stephen, a native of Kottayam in the southern Indian state of Kerala, began when she sought maternity leave to go home in the early stages of her pregnancy. Her employer, a polyclinic in Abha where she worked as a staff nurse delayed her request citing one and other reason, according to Stephen.

She was arrested at Abha airport based on a complaint filed by her employer, as she was about to board a flight back home. She was freed on bail and eventually gave birth to a baby girl at the Abha Maternity Hospital.

The obstacle that prevented her from traveling back home after delivery was a runaway (huroub) report filed by her employer.

Following a catastrophic turn of events, Stephen approached the governorate seeking justice and got the runaway report lifted.

However, the employer approached the court. When the court issued a judgment in Stephen’s favor, the employer declined to issue her an exit visa saying he would file an appeal in the high court.

The aggrieved nurse, with the help of Indian Consulate representatives Ashraf Kuttichal and Biju Nair, then approached the Asir governorate and the Saudi Human Rights Commission.

Subsequently, Director General of Passports in Asir Province Brig. Gen. Saad Bin Ibrahim Al-Hussien issued her an exit-only visa without the consent of her employer, which is a rare move in the Kingdom.

Stephen came to the Kingdom on Feb. 7, 2017, on a three-year contract. She said her recruitment agent had assured her that though her contract was for a three-year period, she could avail of annual vacations. She traveled home after one year to get married.

After spending a month in India, Stephen returned to work on May 19, 2018. When she discovered that she was pregnant, she applied for maternity leave so that she could deliver her baby back home.

“The management first told me that I will be allowed leave after an inspection of the polyclinic by the Ministry of Health officials. Later they said she had to wait further until newly recruited nurses arrive from Sudan and so on,” Stephen said.

Prior to boarding the flight back home, Stephen thanked the Asir governorate, the Indian Consulate and the Saudi Human Rights officials for their support.


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