Tears of relief marked the faces of 33 Indians who returned after a harrowing stay in ISIS-held Erbil, Iraq where they had gone looking for employment and a better future.
All of them arrived in Delhi in the wee hours of Monday after being rescued by the Indian government. Of these, 31 persons hailed from Telangana. They had been stranded in Iraq after they were cheated by their agent who promised to give them employment.
“Some of them were stranded for more than two years, Now, they are back in India staying in Telangana Bhavan in Delhi,” said Chitti Babu, NRI section officer in Telangana. The 31 Telangana natives are likely start their journey by Monday evening and are reach their homes by Tuesday evening, he added.
Babu said that the harrowed workers had been asking for help for the past five months and the rescue was initiated the Indian authorities intervened.
“The rescue operation to bring back them was initiated after the intervention of Telangana minister KT Rama Rao and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, who directed the Indian Embassy to look into the matter,” he said.
The agent had taken large sums of money from the men – all above Rs 1 lakh. All of them come from economically backward backgrounds.
“The agents told them that in Iraq they would earn up to Rs 2 lakh every month. But when they reached there, the agent started avoiding their calls. They had a visa validity of 15 days only. They were even taken near the conflicted areas of Iraq and stayed in very poor conditions,” said Basanth Reddy, spokesperson of Gulf Telangana Welfare and Culture Association, an NGO which helped in the rescue.
The NGO has been in touch with the workers for about two months now. Reddy said that all of them had been trapped in Iraq for at least a year.
“To survive they used to sell empty cold drink bottles. They used whatever little money they got to buy food. They were frequently harassed by the army officials there. They used to make these Indians work at their home but never paid them,” Reddy said.
“From the moment they landed India, they have been crying. They are happy but life hasn’t been easy for them there. Some of them even lost hope of ever seeing their families again at one point of time,” he added.
Speaking to ANI, one rescued person said: “The agent deceived us by promising us jobs in Iraq. More people like us are still there.”
Earlier in 2015, 11 nurses from Kerala were rescued from Kirkuk in northern Iraq.