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Fled from war-torn Iraq, Indians move back to the country for jobs

The Indian Express found that over the last four or five months, at least 20 men from Punjab have returned to Iraq and several others are making efforts to find jobs.

Written by Anju Agnihotri Chaba | Jalandhar |
Updated: May 18, 2015 1:03:39 pm
Family members of Daljeet Singh of Bhogpur. (Source: Express archives) Family members of Daljeet Singh of Bhogpur. (Source: Express archive)

After the Islamic State abducted 39 Indian workers and, separately, a group of nurses last June, thousands of Indians flew back home on special planes sent by New Delhi. However, less than a year later, undeterred by the disappearance of the 39 men and the possibility that the IS may have killed them, some of those who returned home have begun going back to work in Iraq.

The Indian Express found that over the last four or five months, at least 20 men from Punjab have returned to Iraq and several others are making determined efforts to find jobs there through agents or friends already employed in that country.

Gaurav Bawa of Vijay Nagar area in Hoshiarpur is one of them. He went back to Al Hillah in central Iraq in March.

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“He came here when there was a war but he returned to Iraq in March, along with four other boys, to work for the same company that he left in July last year,” said his father, Jugal Kishore Sharma.

Gaurav works as a welder. The Iraqi company he was working for called him back. Sharma said they had been told Iraq was “completely safe”.

Construction is booming in the regions of Iraq that are free of IS, and the country needs workers. Iraqi contractors are willing to pay higher salaries to semi-skilled and skilled workers compared to those in other West Asian countries. On an average, Indian workers get $750-800 per month. In other countries in the region, the average monthly wages are $300-400.

For young people in Punjab, this, combined with the joblessness at home, is making the unstable and war-torn country an attractive destination once again.

“Boys have no job here. If they work in some factory here they won’t earn more than Rs 10,000-12,000 while they are getting salaries equal to Rs 40,000 to 45,000 in Iraq,” said Sharma. He added philosophically that there is a risk to life everywhere. “He calls me daily and says all is well in their area now,” he said.

Like Gaurav, Nachhatar Singh of Hoshiarpur too went back to Iraq in March. Speaking to The Indian Express from Iraq, Nachhattar said he returned to India in July last year with no intention of taking another job in the war-torn country. “But after doing menial jobs to earn a living for a few months, I could not even make enough for two meals a day,” he said.

Finally, he contacted a friend who was still in Iraq. “I asked him if he could help me return to Iraq and he talked to the company people there. The company helped me get a visa,” Nachhatar said.

The steel-manufacturing company also helped three other friends of Nachhatar, two of whom — Gurjit Singh of Patiala and Prince of Hoshiarpur — returned from Iraq last year. Ranvir, from Nachhatar’s village, was a first time traveller.“We flew to Dubai first, and from there we came to Kurdistan in Iraq. We are now working in a steel company called Abdullah Johar,” said Nachhatar.

“We flew to Dubai first, and from there we came to Kurdistan in Iraq. We are now working in a steel company called Abdullah Johar,” said Nachhatar.

Shiv Kumar of Harsa Mansar village returned from Iraq last year. “He was a little scared to go back to Iraq but there was no option as there was no other job here,” said his aunt Urmila Rani. “Even highly educated people have no jobs here,” she said.

Daljeet Singh alias Kala of Bhogpur, who is making desperate efforts to go back to Iraq, rued that he was not even able to get 15 days work here while in Iraq he used to get $700 per month. “It has become difficult to meet the basic requirements of my family. I have to look after seven family members including my old parents,” Kala said.

The family lives in a modest house in the village. His father, Harbhajan Singh, said that ever since Kala’s return from Iraq, they were finding it difficult to run the house. The family has two buffaloes. They make ends meet by selling milk.

In the wake of the abductions, the Ministry of External Affairs had issued an advisory asking Indians to avoid travel to Iraq. While no futher notice has been issued, some of those who returned to Iraq have told friends and family that immigration officials at the airport gave them “huge trouble”.Not wanting to take chances, Deepak of Khojpur village, who returned from Basra last year, headed back to Iraq through Dubai. He left in the first week of May.

Not wanting to take chances, Deepak of Khojpur village, who returned from Basra last year, headed back to Iraq through Dubai. He left in the first week of May.

Ravinder Singh of Khojkipur village in Jalandhar, who works as a carpenter in a Basra company since 2008, has helped three men from his village find jobs in the same company in the last four months.

One of them was Ranjit Singh. “We will get Rs 9,000 from the company for the first four months, after which the company will send us Rs 25,000 per month and give the remaining amount to our son,” said Ram Asra, father of Ranjit Singh.“There is so much joblessness in Punjab and the government only keeps making promises. There is no hope here. That is why people are ready to even go to places like Iraq. At least a job and good money is assured there,” said Gurpreet Singh of Dhakarwali village in Hoshiarpur.

“There is so much joblessness in Punjab and the government only keeps making promises. There is no hope here. That is why people are ready to even go to places like Iraq. At least a job and good money is assured there,” said Gurpreet Singh of Dhakarwali village in Hoshiarpur.

Two of his friends have returned to Sulaimaniyah in Iraq, and he said he had asked them to find him a job too.

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