Abductees safe, hints of captors’ identity available

Amnesty says hundreds of Indian construction workers stranded

June 22, 2014 12:15 am | Updated December 04, 2021 11:37 pm IST - NEW DELHI:

Famlies of men stranded in Iraq offer prayers at a gurdwara in Amritsar on Saturday.

Famlies of men stranded in Iraq offer prayers at a gurdwara in Amritsar on Saturday.

India has “received indications about the identity” of the captors holding 39 of its nationals hostage in the ISIS-controlled northern Iraqi city of Mosul, government sources revealed on Saturday.

Official sources also reiterated that all of them were safe.

“The ground position seems to indicate that the ISIS [Islamic State of Israel and Syria] rebel advances are halted and will stay restricted to the Sunni-majority areas to north-west Iraq. As a result, Indians in cities like Najaf, Karbala, Basra and all of Kurdistan are safe,” an official source told The Hindu .

“About 15,000-20,000 legal and illegal immigrants of Indian origin are in Kurd areas, while another 10,000 are in other parts of Iraq. Of these, a few hundred or less will be in areas that are seeing fighting,” the source said.

Even as Amnesty International said that “hundreds of Indian construction workers” were “possibly stranded in Iraq,” the government said almost all of them were stuck because of labour disputes arising out of contractual obligations.

“These workers are not being able to leave because of contractual obligations of their employers, which is very common in Gulf countries, and not due to the conflict,” an official source said.

“We have contacted most of these companies … they have been responsive to us … someone from the Indian Embassy will go and meet company representatives and workers soon.”

However, the Indian government could not possibly compensate the companies with the outstanding dues of Indian workers, sources said.

Amnesty International claimed to possess evidence suggesting “several hundred Indian nationals may be stranded in the Najaf province of Iraq, unable to return home because their employer refuses to return their passports.”

“With fighting between State forces and armed groups intensifying and affecting civilians across Iraq, the stranded Indian workers could be facing rising dangers. All the workers are reportedly employed with an infrastructure and construction company,” Amnesty said in a public statement on Saturday.

However, sources in Indian government said there was virtually no conflict south of Baghdad, but admitted workers could be living under fear. “In Najaf, for instance, there is fear, not conflict.”

There are 1,350 Indian workers employed by a Turkish power company in the northern Kurdish areas of Iraq out of which 49 wish to return to India and will be “sent out on Monday,” the sources said.

Another company, a construction firm at Najaf, has over 1,000 Indian employees, 28 of whom wish to leave Iraq.

“In constant touch”

“We will be meeting officials of this company on Monday,” a source said, adding these would possibly be moved by Monday or Tuesday.

About the 46 nurses who are mostly from Kerala and “trapped” at the Tikrit general hospital, sources said: “We do not have the means to move the nurses out at the moment” but said officials were in constant touch with them.

The International Committee of the Red Cross and the Iraqi Red Crescent said hundreds of people, from all nationalities were fleeing the fighting and were either staying in camps or finding other jobs.

The ICRC and the Red Crescent continued to be in touch with many of those stranded in Tikrit, Mosul and Baiji and were trying to provide supplies to them.

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