news Wednesday, February 25, 2015 - 05:30

The News Minute | June 20, 2014 | 11.31 am IST

Until news came of around 40 Indians suspected to be held hostage in Iraq, Indians in West Asia were always thought to be in the “Gulf” – Dubai, UAE, Kuwait, Qatar. But one would not think of Iraq.

Just how many Indians are there in Iraq? Reports in the media since the hostage situation was confirmed, show that these figures may not be readily available, even with the authorities.

Reports also suggest that Indian authorities do not know of the exact number of Indians working in Iraq because the story of how they get there is one of legal and illegal routes, exploitation and “agents”, money and desperation.

According to The Hindu, Indian migrants desperate for work first land in Dubai or Saudi Arabia with proper documentation, but cross over into Iraq illegally by land or sea. The families of some of the people who are working in different parts of Iraq are hesitant to approach the Indian government as they uncertain of the legality of their family members’ entry into Iraq. 

The government of Andhra Pradesh has set up a helpline for the families who have relatives stranded in Iraq. The numbers are 040 23454946 and 99490 54467 

According to a report published by The Hindu, according to preliminary inquiries, around 2,000 people from Karimnagar are working in Kurdistan, Baghdad, Syria, Basra and Mansuriya regions.

A Times of India report says that many of the 46 nurses stranded at a hospital in Tikrit are reluctant to return because of the money they owe to loan sharks. Quoting a nurse named Jency James, The Times of India reported that 14 of the nurses who had completed a year of service in Iraq were keen on returning, but the rest had debts to clear. 

Many of the 40 people who are being held hostage at an as yet unknown location in Iraq, are from Punjab. A Times of India report says that most of them had reached Iraq via illegal channels. The report tracks the operations of agents who lure people desperate for jobs to travel to Dubai or another West Asian city on the promise of providing jobs. However, once these youth get there, the agents would tell them that the jobs were unavailable, keeping them without work for days. Once the desperation builds, the youth are ready to take up any job, the report says.

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