Seven youths from Jalandhar and Kapurthala have been stranded in Iraq’s Irbil city for the past seven months without identity cards which are mandatory to seek work in that country. The youths, all in their 20s and 30s, have now appealed to Centre and Punjab government to get them back and take action against the agent that left them in the lurch without IDs.
Five out of these seven — Randeep Kumar, Saurabh, Sandeep Kumar, Baljit Kumar (all four from Chhokran village) and Amandeep (from Atta Village) — are from Jalandhar district, while two from Kapurthala district are Komaljot from Phagwara and Parbhjot from Kapurthala city. They were taken to Iraq via Dubai on Work Visa last year on three dates November 7, December 17 and 27.
“We want to return home, but we do not have a single penny with us. We go on foot to meet the officials of Indian Embassy which is around 7-km away from the place. We are putting up in a single room,” said Randeep Kumar, of Chhokran village, while talking to The Indian Express from Irbil on phone, adding that even Indian Embassy officials made “a contribution of USD 100 to pay us so that we are able to afford two meals a day”.
The youths told The Indian Express that every month USD 500 fine was being imposed on them for living there illegally without IDs.
They added that they had paid Rs two lakh each to the woman agent, including Rs 1.80 lakh each in India before taking the flight and remaining balance of Rs 20,000 each in front of the officials of Indian Embassy in Iraq. Apart from the embassy, they are being helped by people from Punjab working in the area.
Sandeep Kumar also from Chhokran village said that woman agent, who works in Iraq, approached them and told that she can help them in going to Iraq. “We all got ready and she demanded Rs two akh each out of which one lakh was paid at her place in the village, Rs 80,000 each at Delhi airport before taking the flight and remaining Rs 20,000 each was paid in Iraq in front of the Indian Embassy officials where she promised to get our IDs made from the lawyer,” said Sandeep.
“But she did not get the IDs made despite taking entire amount as our families had sent that Rs 20,000 each to her,” added Baljit Singh.
Amandeep, who said that they were promised a good job with a salary of $700 a month but we are penniless now, explained further, “Without IDs no company is giving us work and we are sitting idle — dependent on others even for the food and shelter.”
“When we go to meet the agent, who is also working in Irbil, she always threatens to implicate us in some case and even back home her in-laws complain against our families saying that our parents are harassing them,” said Randeep Kumar, adding that their families had approached the Phillaur Police station against the woman.
Back in Punjab, families of these youths say that they had hoped that their sons would lift them out of poverty, but those hopes were now dashed.
“Our hopes have been shattered. We cannot even bring our son back as we don’t have the money to pay for their return ticket,” said Ram Lubhaya, a labourer and the father of Randeep, while appealing to the state government to arrange a ticket for them.