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Cheated out of a dream but making a new life in Finland

Sandhya Thomas is one of six Indian nurses who arrived in Vaasa in 2009 after responding to a newspaper recruitment ad promising free food and accommodation for nurses coming to work in Finland. Once here, Thomas and the others learned the advertised jobs did not exist.

Sandhya Thomas
Sandhya Thomas Image: Yle/ Antti Lempiäinen

Recruiter Philip Melathil said elder care nursing paid 7−8 euros an hour, which sounded like a jackpot to then 26-year-old Sandhya Thomas.

Philip explained that working in Finland would include some studies at Ostrobothnia's YA! Vocational Education and Training, whose principal, Christina Melathil, was a partner in his recruitment company, Post-landing-services.

But coming to Finland wasn't free. The nurses had to each pay 1,510 euros to the recruitment company in fees.

While the nurses had been led to believe that they had come to Finland to work, they slowly realised no jobs had been arranged and that the qualified nurses had simply been given the opportunity to study practical nursing in English at YA!

The group had come to Finland in hopes of earning money to send back home, but now they were heavily indebted and needed financial aid from their families to make ends meet.

"I'm not from a rich family in India, but I've never been in as bad of a situation as I was in Finland," Thomas told Yle's Swedish-language investigative programme Spotlight.

Police get involved

Desperate, Thomas eventually approached one of her teachers who was shocked to learn that the Indians had arrived for work, not study. The school was also alarmed to hear that the nurses had paid the principal.

A police investigation and trial soon followed and the principal resigned.

The police helped the six Indians into a programme for human trafficking victims that got them back on their feet.

In December last year a court handed Christina and Philip Melathil 10-month suspended prison sentences for aggravated fraud. The couple was also ordered to pay damages to their victims.

Today all six nurses are still living in the Vaasa area, though many are still servicing debt incurred from their stay. Sandhya Thomas took out a loan in Finland to pay off loans in India. She said she hopes to soon be reunited with her husband and son in India, but she doesn't know if they will be able to join her here.

"I hope and dream that there would be a solution to this situation, but I just don't know," she said.

Spotlight airs on Thursday, March 7 at 9.30pm on Yle Fem.

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