Thomas Mathew Kadavil

--A dedicate grass root migrant social worker considers serving the needy fellow beings is the most Passionate and enjoyable work in life ---

by Hari Lakshmanan


Mr. Thomas Mathew Kadavil, based in Kuwait, is a veteran social worker, journalist and respected civil society leader, a strong advocate for labor and human rights issues of migrant workers and their families and migrant-inclusive development.


Thomas Mathew Kadavil was born in Kerala, India. His passion for social services was inculcated during his childhood by family, social organizations and educational institutions in his village and nearby town of Chengannur. Love and care for and sharing with the destitute were values that were instilled in him as a child by his family. His late mother Late  Kunju Kunjamma Thomas and his grandmother Late Aleyamma Philipose Mathai both had a profound influence on him


As a college student, anti-emergency movements fascinated and shaped his socio-political ideology – Peace, Freedom, Equality and Democracy. The teachings of three eminent bishops – former WCC president, thinker and theologian Dr. Paulose Mar Gregorios, exponent of a classless society Dr. Geevarghese Mar Osthathios and proponent of world peace and human rights Bishop Dr. Paulose Mar Paulose – played a massive role in influencing him and molding his leftist political ideology.


Domestic worker

A case of a missing person – that of Mrs. Sajitha Parameswaran, a female domestic worker from Kerala – was reported on the Pravasalokam programme on Kairali TV in 2001. Tracking her, Mr. Kadavil’s pursuit finally brought him to footsteps of the Kuwait Morgue. It was here that he was shocked by the fact that the mortal remains of many Indian nationals lie there, unidentified and unclaimed, awaiting repatriation.

He took this daunting task upon himself as a challenge and says, “Now, there are no more destitute, unclaimed Indian mortal remains in the Kuwait morgue. Many Indian Associations are now in the forefront taking up the task in a competitive spirit in coordination with the Indian embassy in order to send the bodies of the deceased back to their loved ones in India.”


He is of the firm belief that the onus of repatriating the mortal remains of migrant workers rests squarely upon the governments of the countries these people are nationals of. It is their responsibility to ensure that these human beings have a dignified burial.


He began advocating for the free transportation of mortal remains in case they were unclaimed or undocumented. By then, Mr. Kadavil became President of Kala Kuwait, and through this platform, started campaigning for free repatriation of these mortal remains. This led the Government of India to give directions for the free transportation of the bodies of the deceased via the national carrier Air India. Later, the Indian Overseas Affairs ministry ordered the use of the Indian Community Welfare Fund for the free repatriation of mortal remains.


Middle East

These days, Mr. Kadavil is busy receiving phone calls seeking help and advice regarding various problems that are faced by expats and their families. His name and telephone numbers are stored by most expats who are in distress or leading uncomfortable lives as that of a friend in need and rescuer.


Thomas Mathew Kadavil struggles for the betterment of the most disorganized and marginalized migrants in the hostile and difficult social, cultural and political terrains of the Gulf nations. Currently, he is working towards the new Global Compact on Migration for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration under the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG 2030) agenda of the United Nations. Work and campaigns on the human and developmental aspects of migration and to strengthen the positive contributions made by migrants to the economic and social development in their nations of origin and in the nations in which they reside and work – based on the

theme “Migrant means Development” and “No Migrant is Illegal”.


"The new Global Compact on Migration is a necessity at a time when immigrants are experiencing growing xenophobia, racism, discrimination and bitter social exclusion,” Mr. Kadavil thus explained the need for a Global Compact. These countries will become duty-bound to adhere to international treaties and covenants facilitated by the UN and the ILO. The Global Compact will ensure fair recruitment practices.



As the Kuwait Coordinator of Kairali Pravasalokam, he has tracked down around 120 missing migrants and has provided legal, consular, medical, and the travel assistance required to reunite them with their families back home.


The other major grass root level intervention to the migrants' cause is human and visa trafficking, physical and mental abuses,sexual exploitation, delayed or denied wages, low wages, disputed insurance claims, medical care, repatriation of unclaimed mortal remains of destitute, repatriation of undocumented and travel banned expats etc. He was actively involved in the three amnesty declared by the Kuwait government in repatriating the stranded expats by giving air ticket, legal and financial aid to people of Indian, Nepalese, and Sri Lankan origin without any reservations. He is also involved in campaigns that promote the welfare of the expatriate community in the Gulf by successfully using the media as an advocacy tool and as a means of informing the people on rights violations and to receive medical and financial support in the most deserving cases.



He opted for the status of a migrant contract worker in Kuwait in 1990 and soon, the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait forced him to flee and return to India as a refugee. The sufferings of the people under the unruly, undemocratic, dictatorial political system and the untold miseries of the migrant population influenced, revamped and molded his thought process and determination to identify them for the betterment of the world’s most disorganized and exploited section – migrants – and among them, the worst sufferers – women and children.



“The Iraqi invasion of Kuwait gave me the status of a refugee,” he said. “Becoming a refugee in a foreign land where you were a migrant worker is one of the most painful experiences one can have in life.” He went on to explain the agonies of the Iraqi invasion. He shared these experiences while in consultations with the Migrants in Countries in Crisis Initiative (MICIC) under IOM. Mr. Kadavil strongly demands that India have a policy and contingency plan in place for protecting its migrants in nations where conflicts and calamities take place.


Holding responsible positions in various organizations over the years enabled Mr. Kadavil to contribute to the community welfare efforts of improving the standard and quality of life of Indian migrant workers with the Kerala Art Lovers Association – KALA Kuwait as its President and the Malayalee Media Forum – MMF Kuwait, as its General Convener and acting as Kuwait Coordinator for Kairali TV for the past 17 years. These platforms were effectively utilized to reach out to large segments of the Indian diaspora with their multi-faceted problems and challenges.


He has been interacting with the Embassy of India, Kuwait on a regular basis, and this has helped in the expedition and addressing of grievances of the Indian diaspora with the earnest support and the good offices of the Indian Mission. He has taken up the grievances of hundreds of migrants to the appropriate government authorities for remedial measures at both State and Central Governments of India and Kuwait


He was instrumental in arranging for necessary medical treatment, financial assistance and insurance claims to the sick and injured before their repatriation. This, of course, included wheelchair- and stretcher-dependent patients.


He remains involved in the labor issues pertaining to migrant workers on a daily basis by ensuring counseling, advice and necessary directives to workers including conducting labor law and legal awareness programs and seminars. Constant intervention and appeals resulted in the opening of the separate labor section in the Embassy and shelters for runaway and destitute domestic workers.



Mr. Kadavil wrote “Smart Migration to Kuwait”, a booklet on migrant rights and labor laws of Kuwait, published by the ILO in six Indian languages, as a pre-departure pocket guide for Indian migrant workers to Kuwait.


Constant advocacy campaigns are conducted on various issues and challenges faced by migrant workers and their families through different CSOs, government platforms, media – TV talk shows, panel discussions, writing articles in print and social media.


The conditions of distressed domestic workers, especially Indian female domestic workers in the Middle East is deeply alarming and amounts to outright human trafficking and human rights violations in a large number of cases. Ever since he came across their pathetic conditions, Mr. Kadavil has been campaigning to put an end to the exploitation and misery they endure. They are found assisted in the payment of fines and provided with air tickets to India. Numerous destitute foreign domestic workers who found themselves stranded in distress, cheated, exploited, molested, abused, abandoned and left homeless.



Kadavil effectively advocated and intervened in the illegal recruitment and trafficking of nurses and paramedical professionals to the Middle East, leading to the MOEA’s decision to restrict the recruitment of nurses to 18 ECR countries through only six state-owned recruitment agencies


He was instrumental in securing the release of Indians languishing in jails as under-trials. For quite some time now, he has been campaigning to get funding support and set up Free Legal Assistance under Indian Embassies to those in jail from the Government of India or State governments.



Campaigns and advocacy continue with governments and international organizations for the safe, dignified repatriation of 29,000-plus “undocumented or irregular Indian nationals who are stranded in Kuwait” via Amnesty or a G2G arrangement with the Kuwait Government.

Campaigns were started among the Indian diaspora and representations were made against the sudden, unjustified increase in fee for the Children of Indian Workers in Gulf (CIWG) from $1600 to $8000 under the Direct Admission of Students Abroad (DASA) scheme and as a result, the fee has now been reduced to $2000 by the MHRD.


Therefore, it was little wonder that when the Kerala Government constituted its first Loka Kerala Sabha (World Kerala Assembly), Mr. Thomas Mathew Kadavil became the first natural choice to be its member.


As a grass-roots migrant social worker and resource person on migrant matters, Mr. Kadavil was invited to many seminars and conventions at national, regional and international levels, especially related to migrant workers under UN, ILO, and IOM.


He has received many accolades and awards, but remains grounded as he says “I receive awards every day when I receive rejoicing tearful calls and hear sighs of relief on having reached home safely, when they express sincere gratitude”.


Thomas Mathew Kadavil is a busy Sales and Marketing professional, which leads one to wonder how he manages to find time to be engaged in all these activities along with his career. When asked about it, he says, “When there is a will, there is a way. Serving needy fellow beings is my calling in life. So I find time for that leaving many other personal comforts and at times, even losing jobs.”


To his credit, he has 33 years of experience working in different capacities in his careers as a sales executive, as an area sales manager, sales manager, finance consultant, marketing manager, contracts manager, business development manager, etc, in India, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and in Kuwait..


Academics: He holds a Masters degree in Economics with postgraduate studies in Marketing Management & Law.


Listed below are some of the national, regional and international seminars and conferences – conducted under the auspices of the UN, ILO and IOM related to the issues of migrant workers – that he was a part of:


1)Seminar and Training on Ethical Recruitment in Dubai, UAE -Regional Conference on Labor

 Migration Recruitment Reform – (Abu Dhabi Dialogue) 

2)Diplomacy Training Program – under UNHRC in Kuwait

3)UNHRC – 29th Session at UN Geneva on Migrants Rights from June 16- 19th 2015

4)Global Forum on Migration & Development (GFMD) at Istanbul Turkey, 2015

5)4th International Congress on Kerala Studies -2016 Seminar – “Migrant Welfare “

6)Governmental and Regional Civil Society Consultations – Migrants in Countries in  

     Crisis Initiative (MICIC) for the MENA Region at Beirut, Lebanon 2016.

7)Cross Regional Social Media Workshop on Migrant Workers at New Delhi, 2016-

8)Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD) at Dhaka Bangladesh, 2016.

9)PGA – On Migration, Development and Human Rights 2016, Dhaka  2016


10)Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD) – Berlin, Germany 2017

11)PGA – On Migration, Development and Human Rights 2016, Berlin Germany, 2017

12)Resource Person cum Trainer – Andhra Pradesh Non-Resident Telugu (APNRT) Social Coordinators Seminar and Workshop, Kuwait 2017

13)ILO – Interregional Consultation on Labour Migration and Mobility from Asia, Africa to the Middle East – Tripartite Meeting Beirut, Lebanon, 2017

14)Regional Conference – Collective Advocacy, Action and Empowerment of Domestic Workers in Asia, Manila, Philippines 2017

15)Regional Recruitment Workshop on Domestic Work and Garment Industries in Asia and the Middle East, Philippines. 2017

16)Loka Kerala Sabha, (World Kerala Assembly) at Thiruananthapuram Kerala, India 2018


Thomas Mathew Kadavil

Member, Loka Kerala Sabha

Coordinator, Kairali Pravasalokam, Kuwait

Phone: +695 97522614 Telefax : +965 24344706

Email: /

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