High commission to probe excesses
A team of Indian High Commission officials in Australia will visit a New South Wales country to probe allegations of exploitation of Indian immigrants working on a tomato farm.
The Commonwealth Workplace Ombudsman had announced an inquiry into a news report that workers, mostly from Gujarat, working at a farm owned by company Rorato Nominees in the Riverina town of Jerilderie were subjected to human rights abuses and made to live in squalor.
"It is of great concern to us that Indian people may have suffered sexual abuse and been subjected to inhumane conditions while living and working in the town. I will be accompanying the Indian consul-general from Canberra to the town very shortly," a spokesman from the High Commission of India in Canberra said.
The spokesman said the High Commission wanted to find other alleged victims of exploitation who were rumoured to have returned to India.
"We will probe further into this matter. I am not sure yet how we will find these people but it is another thing we will look at," he was quoted as saying by The Sydney Morning Herald.
Rorato's workplace supervisor Sam Prassad is facing police investigation after the alleged sexual assault of a female Indian worker.
Former Indian labourers accused Prassad of demanding thousands of dollars in "job enrolment fees" and forcing them to pay and stay in sub-standard accommodation, supplied by him, as a condition of employment.
Solicitor Dale Brooks said his firm, Taylor and Whitty, had eight pending legal cases, both criminal and industrial, relating to workers on the farm.
A spokesman for Commonwealth Workplace Ombudsman Nicholas Wilson said an "interesting aspect" of initial investigations was that "nobody", including Rorato Nominees, seemed "willing to accept they actually employed the workers".