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HindustanTimes Wed,01 Oct 2014

Save our lives, plead youths trapped in Iraq

Surinder Maan, Hindustan Times  Moga, August 03, 2014
First Published: 11:52 IST(3/8/2014) | Last Updated: 11:55 IST(3/8/2014)

Struggling to seek help for their release from Iraq, nearly 50 Punjabi youths have revealed, through a letter to a Kuwait-based social organisation, that some travel agents, who had brought them to Iraq, had asked them to pay $25,000 each if they wanted to get back their passports and other documents for returning to India. Some of these youths have also alleged that they were tortured by company officials after they refused to work without wages.

Rajveer Singh Sandhu Bhaluria, in-charge of the state unit of the Punjab Welfare Society, Kuwait, said here on Saturday that the Punjabi youths, who belonged to Jalandhar, Fatehgarh Sahib, Gurdaspur and Amritsar districts, have written in the letter that they have lost all hope of returning to their home country in the absence of any help from the Indian authorities in Iraq.

Ravinder Singh, who holds Indian passport number K-3271986, and others have informed the society that neither Indian nor Iraqi authorities have set up any helpline to assist them. “We have made repeated requests to Iraq authorities to contact the Indian embassy staff but without any result so far. We have been living in a small room near Basra city of Iraq for the past two months. There is no sufficient food for us and we live under risk,” youths have stated in their joint letter.

“Several companies, where we have worked in Iraq, have ditched us. The company owners did not pay our wages and ordered us to leave the company’s premises,” stated the letter sent by Dharminder Kumar, Bikramjit Singh, Karam Singh, Sanju Kumar who hold Indian passports. “When my relative went to Iraq on a work-permit visa, we thought that all financial problems would come to an end as my hard-working relative would be a success in the foreign land. But fate willed otherwise,” said Ravinder’s close relative Sandhu Bhaluria.

Sandhu Bhaluria also said that one Sanju Kumar told the society members that when he refused to work without being given wages for four months, the company manager hit him in the head and made him stand in the sun for five hours.

Ram Singh Sahota, chairman of Punjab Welfare Society, told Hindustan Times over the phone from Kuwait that the society had contacted Indian embassy officials for releasing Punjabi youths but no positive result has come so far. “During the investigation, we found that the Iraqi travel agents who are in contact with some Indian agents are creating problems for Punjabi youths.,” said Sahota.

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