Indians return from Libya with their cup full of woes

“I sold my clothes to call up my wife for a minute,” said Ajay Kumar, 28-year old construction worker who returned to Mumbai on Friday from Libya with stories of hardships and misery. “All we could manage to bring with us were a few sets of clothes,” Amarjeet, a carpenter, told The Hindu.

They were a part of more than 100 Indians who were rescued from Libya and flown from Dubai back home on board EK 502. The Emirates flight was one of the few flights which brought back scores of Indians from the strife-torn land. Four Egypt Air chartered flights arrived here on Friday, each bringing around 268 Indians home.

Some of them had seen their friends die in front of their eyes, some went hungry for days as their ration was stolen, some ill stayed back home due to the fear of being shot dead if they left their overcrowded rooms for the hospital. Their tales of misery were too many, and the time to narrate them too short.

“The rioters looted our money, mobile phones, cameras, everything at gunpoint. Not just that, they even looted our ration. We have been hungry since the past six days,” Subhash, a 35-year old mason worker from Rajasthan said.

“I can't even tell you how we stayed there; 15 of us were packed into a 10 by 15 foot room. We could not get out of the rooms for fear of our lives. The company did not pay us our dues. We were left lurching in the dark in those camps,” Shashi Kapoor, 23-year old plumber from Punjab said.

“The firing continued in our camp for quite a few days. Finally, one of our company officers got 194 of us Indians out of that camp and took us to the Tunisian border. The Indian embassy received us there, took care of us and then sent us to Dubai from where we came back here,” he said.

For all of them, remembering their stint in Libya was nothing less to reliving a nightmare. “The very thought of Libya sends shivers down my spine. The phone lines were down. We could not even communicate with our families for more than a month,” said Hari Bilas, a carpenter from Punjab.

More than 100 construction labourers who came from Libya said they were duped by an Indian company and sent to Libya on false promises. “They took Rs. one lakh from me and told me they will send me to Libya to work for the Hyundai company,” Gagan Deep, a carpenter from Punjab said.

“There were so many of us who paid the money to R K International. They promised us a salary of Rs. 15,000-20,000 per month, but we were hardly given Rs. 8,000. We had to work there for a Korean company ISU, which further sent us to some local company,” Abhijeet Biswas, a carpenter from Kolkata said.

“We lost all that we had. The Indian company took money from us and we hardly earned anything there. We are only thankful that we came back alive,” he said.

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