Saturday, June 20, 2009

Dwelling Inside Dubai International

Dubai Int'l Airport - The flight to Kandahar has been delayed. I've been sitting at the transfer terminal for the last six hours trying to figure out what's next but the airport officials here seem to not care much. One of the gentleman looked at my passport this morning and asked me to wait in a line along with several dozens of migrant workers from Bangladesh and Nepal who were waiting to board the plane to Iraq. Shockingly enough he chose to apologize in Hindi - "Mujhe laga tum bhi yin logo ke saath ho" [I thought you were with these guys also].

The airport is quite a scene - most of these laborers heading to Iraq have been sleeping all over the aiport, many even on the floor. They have a huge group - a Bangladeshi group, a Nepali group and a Filipino group - each group identified by a colored hat that they've been asked to wear.

I approached two gentlemen from Nepal who were going to work inside the International Zone in Iraq . Dilip Kumar Shah, a native of Lahan, who'd already spent couple of years working in Malaysia, has a job lined up as a cook inside the American base. Uttar Kumar Rai, a retired Indian army who hails from Okhaldhunga, will be working as a security guard inside the base.

But the surprising thing was neither of them had a ticket to Iraq - they were put on a plane to Dubai from Kathmandu and were left to sort out their travel plans to Baghdad by themselves. Rai says he would be making about $1,500/month while Shah said he's expecting around $500/month. But that wasn't a written agreement. That's what they're told they would make.

Uttar Kumar Rai and Dilip Kumar Shah are heading to Baghdad to work.

And here they were, wandering in an airport without any kind of ticket or a certainty of getting to their destination.

I'll be running into more of Rais and Shahs once I get to Afghanistan. Hope to work on a detailed story.

Meantime, here's what a Bangladeshi guy told me when I asked him why he was going to Iraq - You are going to a hell hole because you chose to. We are going to a hell hole because we don't have a choice.

More soon.

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