Many Punjabis are stuck in strife-torn Iraq because they don’t have $1,050 (around Rs. 63,000) each, which the Indian embassy is demanding as airfare and charges to be paid at the airport at the time of leaving Iraq.
“They (embassy officials) are demanding $650 per air ticket and $400 as migration charges to be paid at the airport during departure,” Gurdaspur native Pardeep Singh (33) told HT on the phone.
Pardeep has been regularly calling up the control room set up by the Punjab government here, but state government officials say they are not of much help as the matter falls under the purview of the union ministry of external affairs. Devinder Singh, a nodal officer at the control room, said he was getting 60 to 70 calls these days and a majority of the callers claimed that they had no money to come back. “We are informing our top officials in this regard,” he added.
Pardeep, who resigned from a multinational company, German Medical Solutions, in Najaf (Iraq) a month ago, said all his efforts to return were proving futile as he was unable to raise $1,050.
“My family back home does not have money. The company where I worked has not paid my salary,” Pardeep said, adding that he paid Rs. 1.75 lakh to travel agents in Punjab when he left for Iraq eight months ago, but had not earned enough to repay the loan.
According to him, there are about 650 Punjabis stuck in various companies in Najaf. “Though the Indian authorities have set up a camp office in Najaf, they can’t help us much,” said Pardeep, adding that Indian embassy officials came to meet company officials who had hired Punjabis and other Indians, but to no avail. “They are neither able to get our salaries released from our employers nor make arrangements for our departure,” he complained.