Stuck in strife-torn Iraq, the Punjabi youth are being exploited by their employers who are blackmailing them and demanding a ransom to return their passports.
Even those living in a safe location, miles away from the site of violence, are facing harassment at the hands of their employees who are supposedly threatening the youth of dire consequences if they did not pay money to get their passports.
Narrating their woes over the phone, cousins Hardeep Singh (20), Jagdeep Singh (30) and Kuldeep Singh (30) from Bheedwal village near Rajpura said that their employer demanding $US 1000 from each of them in exchange for their passports.
The trio is stuck in Najaf, approximately 146 km from Baghdad. “They did not even guarantee to return our passports even if victims pay them the amount,” said Jagdeep Singh. His cousin Kuldeep Singh said they were not paid their salaries and had been working like bonded labourers in a pharmaceutical factory.
“First, we do not have enough money to pay for our passports. Even if we somehow manage to pay our employer, who will pay for our air tickets?” he said.
“We invested everything in sending our wards to foreign countries, in search of greener pastures. We are left with no money to pay their employers,” said Sadha Singh, Hardeep’s father.
Meanwhile, their families accused travel agents for their sons’ condition as despite spending more than Rs 2 Lakh to send each of them to Iraq in December 2013, the agents got them passport with three months visa, with permit for for 10-day entry only.
“Though ours wards are regularly in contact with us they have been living there illegally since January 2014,” said Jagdeep’s father Balkar Singh, requesting that both the central and state governments should ensure their sons’ return.