A number of workers from the district who had gone to the Gulf countries on a visit visa are stranded in Erbil in Kurdistan region of Northern Iraq as they were denied the akaama (work permit) there.
They are struggling there without accommodation, employment and food for the last two years now. Some had gone two years ago and some others landed there as recently as one month ago. Gulf agents, who charged them up to ₹2 lakh cheated them.
These workers were first taken to Dubai on visit visa and after 15 days of transit visa sent to Erbil on travel visa. The employers over there were exploiting the workers by making them work longer hours and denying them salary. “If we insist on salary they are threatening to send us to prison. If we want to come back they demand hefty penalties which sometime run into ₹6 lakh,” Ramchander, who hails from Navipet, said. Despite being a post graduate he chose to go there to earn big money.
Crying inconsolably over the phone from Erbil, Ramesh, from Chepur in Armoor mandal, told The Hindu that he was cheated by a Gulf agent and was sleeping either in mosques or on parks during nights. “My wife, children and parents are eagerly waiting for me to come back. I don’t want to be in Iraq any longer,” he said.
There are over 1,000 migrant workers from the two Telugu States and 200 from the erstwhile undivided district in Erbil city. Youth from Chepur, Jakranpally, Velpur and Navipet had gone and are stranded. They earnestly appealed to Centre, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, IT Minister K.T. Rama Rao and Gulf Telangana Welfare Association president P. Basanth Reddy to help liberate them from the clutches of their ruthless employers.
Since their passports were seized by employers as soon as they landed in the Gulf country they could not come back even if they got a visa. Sometimes possession of passport has no use as they will not get a visa. For many months these hapless workers huddled together fearing the war between Kurds and Iraq forces.
GTWA president P. Basanth Reddy said that Indian Consul-General in Erbil Deepak Vignani had told him that the migrant workers could leave for home via Bagdad. As of now, they are safe there. “I can make arrangements for their return provided the Centre Government initiates steps for which Ms. Swaraj needs to be consulted,” Vignani was quoted as saying by Basanth Reddy.
In the November last as many as 60 workers in two groups belonging to north Telangana were brought back to New Delhi from Iraq with the initiative of Mr. Rama Rao and Basanth Reddy. Then, expenditure was borne by the Government of India.