150 Indian workers confined by employer in Basra

‘They are unable to leave due to labour disputes and not because of conflict’

June 23, 2014 12:10 am | Updated November 16, 2021 07:01 pm IST - NEW DELHI:

India’s difficulties in tackling the crisis concerning its citizens stranded in Iraq may be compounded by the confinement of nearly 150 Indians by their employer at a location not far from the port town of Basra, about 450 km south-east of Baghdad.

Umesh Kumar (28), one of the workers employed by a construction company in Al Amarah — a Shia-dominated city in south-eastern Iraq about 160 km from Basra — claimed in his conversation with The Hindu that he and his colleagues were in danger. “There is not a day when we don’t see fighting here,” Umesh told this correspondent over phone.

He claimed that 150 Indian nationals were being kept against their will by the construction company over contractual issues.

“I have been working here for seven months but I have not been paid salary for the last three months. Now they are asking me to furnish 700 (Iraqi) Dinars. I have been telling them to let me go in lieu of my three-month salary, but they don’t listen,” he said.

Umesh, who hails from Rajasthan’s Jhunjhunu district, said all Indian nationals employed at the company want to leave Iraq and return home.

The situation of the workers in Al-Amarah is in contrast to the 46 Indian nurses “trapped” at the Tikrit General Hospital who have reportedly agreed to stay back after being promised wages by the rebels.

Though they claim to be living under constant fear, they do not seem to be facing any imminent danger and are living in “good conditions”.

Foreign Ministry sources, however, said the Indian mission was in constant touch with Iraqi authorities to reach out to Indian workers stranded at various locations in the strife-torn nation.

“These Indians are not being able to leave because of labour disputes related to contractual obligations and not because of conflict,” said a Ministry source.

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