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India repatriates bodies of 45 workers killed in Kuwait fire

The bodies of 45 Indians who died in a fire at a workers’ accommodation in Kuwait were transported to India this Friday (14), while bereaved family members and experts call on New Delhi to increase protection for the lives of those working abroad with the aim of to send money home.

It is likely that an electrical short circuit caused the fire on Wednesday (12) in the Mangaf housing complex, a coastal city south of the capital Kuwait. The Indian workers were among the 49 people who died. Another 33 are being treated in hospitals.

Television showed grieving families waiting at the airport to receive the bodies of their loved ones. Upon arrival, coffins with photos of the deceased were placed on separate tables in the airport’s cargo complex.

Families, friends, ministers and officials paid their respects as police gave them a guard of honor.

Twenty-three of the 45 were from the southern Indian state of Kerala, and its chief minister, Pinarayi Vijayan, called the accident “a national tragedy”.

“This is the biggest tragedy involving migrants. We consider migrants as our lifeline. It is a big loss for the state,” he told reporters.

Millions of foreign workers make up the majority of the workforce in Kuwait and some of its Gulf neighbors, and they often live in crowded housing.

On Thursday (13), Kuwaiti prosecutors ordered a citizen and several residents detained in custody on charges of manslaughter due to negligent building security.

India’s Ministry of External Affairs said 176 workers lived there.

The other dead included three Filipino workers, the Philippine migrant workers ministry said, adding that two more were hospitalized and in critical condition.

Local authorities did not disclose the type of employment the workers were engaged in, although like other Gulf states, Kuwait relies heavily on foreign labor in industries such as construction.

Around 13 million Indians work abroad – more than 60% of which are in Gulf countries – according to information shared with parliament by the Indian Ministry of External Affairs in 2023. Kuwait is the third country with almost 850,000 Indian migrants.

India’s Ministry of External Affairs says it has a “robust mechanism” to monitor working conditions abroad. But commentators said more needed to be done.

The fire in Kuwait “is a reminder of the terrible working conditions of a large, and often ignored, part of the Indian diaspora”, said the Indian Express in an editorial this Friday (14).

Source: CNN Brasil

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