Parents of over 60 young men, who are stuck in Melilla, an autonomous Spanish city in North Africa, for attempting to illegally enter Spain, have appealed to the Government of India to get them release from detention on sympathetic grounds, at Jalander.

Three men died due to starvation, one committed suicide and 63 others have been allegedly held captive in a camp on the Melilla Island. Former Union social welfare minister and Lok Bhalai Party (LBP) Chief Balwant Singh Ramoowalia presented the parents of these 63 captive men in front of the media on Sunday, demanding that stern action should be taken against such travel agents, who were engaged in virtual loot of the innocent peoples of the state. “They are suffering there in the most inhuman conditions. In a fax message sent to us, these illegal migrants have explained about their miserable condition and appealed for immediate help,” he said.

In a seven-page letter faxed to the office of LBP on Saturday stating that those men had not eaten anything for days, which resulted in the death of Sukhwinder Singh of Kapurthala, Buta Singh of Phagwara and Sonu Singh of Amritsar. Hardeep Singh of Patiala committed suicide while two others lost their senses, the letter says, “We were kept in the Sahara desert for two years. We were mercilessly beaten up and kept like animals at different locations.” The former Union Minister appealed to the Government of India to take up the cases of such youths on sympathetic ground and instruct Indian Embassy in Spain to get them release from detention.

Mr. Ramoowalia asked the Punjab government to come out with the proposed Ordinance to rein in travel agencies and constitute a special task force to arrest agents for allegedly duping 63 youths, who are detained in Spain for several years. “It seems that both union and state governments have bowed down under the pressure of the lobby of unscrupulous travel agents, which could be evident from the inordinate delay in the issuing the ordnance against such Agents, who have looted Punjabis”, said Mr. Ramoowalia.

Parents of the youths narrated stories of how they were duped by unscrupulous travel agents, alleging that immigration agents sent the young men in batches to Togo in western Africa or Ukraine about 5 to 7 years back, from where they were to go on to Spain or Italy. Before reaching Melilla, these youths suffered countless difficulties while crossing international borders and travelling through sea. They were caught by the security agencies in Melilla and are being kept in a camp there.