After many sleepless nights Iraq victims finally return

The victims, all from Nizamabad, were cheated by their agents.

Hyderabad: After battling hunger and lack of facilities for about six months in Iraq, 14 victims of human trafficking returned to the city early on Wednesday, their penalty and passage paid for by the government.

The victims, all from Nizamabad, were cheated by their agents.

The victims had been sent to Erbil in Iraq on August 17 and had visas for a month. Each of the victims had paid their agent Rs 1.80 lakh for visa and Rs 20,000 for other charges. After the visas lapsed, they became illegals and the local government imposed a fine of $20 per day on each of them.

Narrating their ordeal, Mr B. Chatur Singh, one of those who returned on Wednesday, said, “We were promised by our agents Arugula. Vijay Chary and B. Tirupati that we will be provided a job. They promised us a visit visa-cum-employment card but did not deliver it.” The agents had made similar promises to 14 members.

They were packed into a room with one bathroom in Erbil. “We went to sleep hungry many nights. Sometimes one of us used to go out and beg or work in exchange for vegetables. If they got vegetables, we used to make food and eat once a day.”

Mr Singh said he had completed his degree but was unemployed. He used to eke out a livelihood by farming on agricultural land that he took on rent. “I did not earn any profit through agriculture. I went into debt after failure of crops,” Mr Singh said.

His daughter was born in May last year. Because of some health complications, Mr Singh said he had had to spend Rs 4 lakh on her medical treatment. “My debt increased to Rs 10 lakh. I went to Iraq in the hope of earning enough money to pay off my loans,” Mr Singh said.

Mr A. Ganga Reddy, one of the victims, said, “As we are staying illegally, we faced a lot of abuse from the owners. When there was a police check, the owner used to physically abuse us and made us to jump to other buildings.”

Mr K. Mahender, another victim, said the group had travelled to Baghdad and then reached Erbil. At Baghdad, they stayed with a Punjabi agent who promised them jobs. “He used to lock us inside a room. Sometimes, he used to give one roti for each person, other days we were left to starve,” he alleged.

Mr K. Ravinder, whose family comprises his wife and two children, said, “If we worked for two hours we used to get vegetables. We used to share this in the group. Sometimes we used to get bread. We survived with that till December.”

Then, they got to know of Mr Basant Reddy, president of the Gulf Telangana Workers Welfare and Cultural Association of Nizamabad over Facebook, he said.

“We approached him for help. He immediately sent 40 kg rice through his friend and helped us financially for one-and-a-half months. He requested the Iraq government to send us back,” Mr Ravinder said.

All the returnees thanked TRS MP K. Kavitha and her NGO Telangana Jagruthi for helping them out. They were flown to Delhi and from there to Hyderabad. One of the victims who couldn’t return due to visa issue and he would come back in two days.

( Source : Deccan Chronicle. )
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