Migrants’ rights forum says it received distress calls from Telugu workers

At least 1,000 persons from different districts of Telangana are feared trapped in the strife-torn areas of Iraq, even as the State government began efforts to collect details of the emigrants.

Though both the State and Central governments claimed that there is no official information about people stranded there, Muddam Balakrishna, a worker who returned to Nizambad on June 12 from Iraq, told The Hindu that there were at least 1,000 Telugu-speaking persons in Erbil and nearby towns of Iraq. Most of them hailed from Karimnagar, Nizamabad, Adilabad and Medak districts and were working in construction and other infrastructure projects, Mr. Balakrishna claimed.

Mr. Balakrishna, who spoke over the phone from Nizamabad town, said he went to Iraq on April 11 on being promised a job in a hotel. When he reached Iraq, he was put up in a hotel, but was given no work. When he went out to buy a SIM card for his mobile phone, Iraqi security forces detained him for a week suspecting him to be a terrorist.

“I was released only after they compared my fingerprints and iris data with Interpol lookout notices. I was ordered to return to India. I took the first available flight and returned on June 12,” Mr. Balakrishna said. At least six persons hailing from Adilabad district were detained by the Iraqi police for not possessing proper documents.

Bomb blasts

A report from Karimnagar said migrant labourer Durgaiah from Nakkalapeta village of Dharmapuri mandal called his family members on Tuesday and expressed fears about his safety. “There are bomb blasts all around and we are frightened. The military camp is also closed,” Durgaiah told his family. President of Gulf Returning Welfare Members’ Society in Jagtial town, Chand Pasha, said several Indians, mostly from the Telangana region, are living in military camps.

A senior government official N.V. Ramana Reddy said he had spoken to the officials in the Ministry of External Affairs who said they had no information about any Telugu person in Iraq.

Meanwhile, the Telangana government directed the district Collectors to collect details such as the names of the stranded persons, their passport numbers, their location in Iraq, the company for which they were working, the local address and contact numbers. Helplines had already been established in the Indian Mission in Baghdad. A helpline was also set up in the NRI Cell in Telangana.

The Migrants’ Rights and Welfare Forum president K. Narasimha Naidu said he was receiving calls from Telugu workers in Iraq asking for help.