Indian docs in Nigeria say passports snatched, salaries denied

Two Indian doctors at an Indian-owned hospital in Nigeria have approached the federal court of that country and sought help from the Ministry of External Affairs in India, alleging their employers have confiscated their passports, and denied them three months' salary.

Authorities at the hospital a branch of Primus Super Specialty Hospital in Chanakyapuri, New Delhi in Nigeria's capital Abuja admitted that the doctors' passports had been kept at the time they joined for "safety purposes", but denied any "wrongdoing". They confirmed that they had received a show-cause order issued by the Nigerian court.

The doctors Neeraj Singh, consultant in pathology, and Amit Bali, consultant in anaesthesia signed two-year contracts with the hospital in February, and joined work in March. Both, however, resigned in September.

While the doctors declined to speak, a copy of an appeal filed by Bali to the MEA and the Indian high commissioner's office in Abuja on November 8, says: "The management of the hospital took away my... passport... a few days after we landed in Abuja, which was never returned..." The letter adds that Bali hasn't received his salary for three months. In his resignation letter, Singh said, "The salary is not even paid...I have been recruited into modern slavery."

Achla Dewan, chairperson of Primus Hospitals, said: "We take the passports of employees as a routine safety measure, since the hospital facilitates their visa applications and immigration. We are responsible for them here..." Dewan added that on November 16, the doctors' passports had been handed over to the Nigerian immigration department after a letter was received from the Assistant Comptroller General of Immigration in Nigeria to "facilitate their repatriation".

"We had sent a letter to the immigration office on November 6, stating that the doctors were no longer in our employment as they stopped reporting for work from October 17. On November 16, the Nigerian authorities wrote back requesting us to submit their passports, and send one-way return tickets. We sent both," Dewan said.

She said that as per the doctors' contracts with the hospital, they were supposed to serve a six-month notice or give up six months' salary if they wanted to leave before two years. By not reporting for work, they had "violated the contract", Dewan said.

An MEA spokesperson here said, "Our mission in Abuja is actively pursuing the matter, However, in accordance with the judicial pronouncements by the Nigerian court, we are unable to provide further details."

Joachim Olumba, spokesperson for the Nigeria Immigration Services told The Indian Express, "We will ensure justice is done. It is not permissible for employers to take passports of any foreign employees in Nigeria."

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