Telangana illegal immigrants in Iraq in no man’s land

newsimageThousands of illegal migrants from north Telangana are stranded in strife-torn Iraq even as their families back home run from pillar to post seeking official help for their safe return. Many of the illegal migrants want to return home but are forced to stay back risking their lives as they do not possess passports, visa or other valid documents to prove their nationality. According to Gulf Returnees' Welfare Association (GRWA), about 15,000 people, mostly poor and illiterate were recruited for companies in Kuwait and other Gulf countries a few years back. But they were illegally sent across the borders into Iraq to work for American soldiers as the Indian government had imposed travel restrictions to Iraq after the invasion by the US. These people were reportedly employed as cheap labour in reconstruction works in war-ravaged Iraq after the collapse of Saddam regime. "Many of them do not have passports. Even if some lucky ones possess passports they do not have valid Iraqi visa stamping on them as they had entered Iraq illegally. Unless the Indian government takes up a massive evacuation exercise by issuing emergency certificates to illegal immigrants, they will continue to suffer in alien land. These people find themselves in a peculiar situation as they fear both the Iraqi government and insurgents. They cannot approach the Iraqi government for help as they do not possess passports or visa. Moreover, they have to prove their Indian nationality with the Indian embassy to obtain emergency certificates to return home," said GRWA president Shaik Chand Basha. Meanwhile, about 250 migrant labour, who have been stranded in Kirkuk town and leading fearful lives amidst gunfire for more than two weeks, wrote a letter to Telangana chief minister K Chandrasekhar Rao urging him to take immediate measures to rescue them. Though there are no official records, it is estimated that about 20,000 workers from north Telangana are engaged in menial works in Iraq. Of them, around 15,000 are staying illegally in the war-hit nation. They hail from Karimnagar, Nizamabad, Adilabad and Medak districts. The GRWA has demanded that the Central government first identify the recruiters who sent illiterate migrant labour to Iraq on "dummy" visas. "There is no official data on the number of Telangana workers in Iraq as most of them had entered illegally, though some used fake visa papers," pointed out M Gangadhar, who returned from Iraq last year. According to Gangadhar, Telangana workers, who migrated to UAE in search of employment, had sneaked into Iraq on dummy visas as they were promised higher salaries. "They were engaged in American military base camps to clean US military tents, wash clothes and assist soldiers in the kitchen. Some of them were employed as security guards after they were trained to handle sophisticated weapons like AK 47," Gangadhar added. Anxious relatives of migrant workers are spending sleepless nights and collecting documents from various departments that could help the workers establish their nationality before the Indian embassy. One of the workers, Sai Kumar from Ganpur village of Dichpalli mandal had contacted his parents and informed them that he would return to India "in a few days". Copie of documents like ration cards, Aadhar and voter ID were sent to him through email. Another worker, Mandala Venugopal Reddy, who works as a salesman in a Baghdad shopping mall, telephoned his father Janardhan Reddy on Friday to inform him that he is safe though the situation in the Iraqi capital is "very serious". Venugopal Reddy hails from Karimnagar town. But family members of Nimmala Sudhakar and Thalla Shravan, who went to Iraq in search of employment, are anxious about their safety. They have not yet called them on phone. Natives of Beeravelli village of Sarangapur mandal in Adilabad district, the duo went to Iraq three years ago.