India re-imposes ban on emigration to Iraq

Conflict zone: Ban could last for over a month if situation worsens

India re-imposes ban on emigration to Iraq

India has re-imposed a ban on granting clearance for emigration to Iraq in view of the escalating conflict and the recent abduction of the 40 Indians at the jihadist-held city of Mosul in the West Asian country.

The spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) Syed Akbaruddin on Friday said that the Protector General of Emigrants had been asked not to grant clearance for emigration to Iraq for one month.

Sources in New Delhi, however, said that the emigration ban might be extended even beyond one month, if the situation in the West Asian country does not improve or worsens. New Delhi had on May 3, 2010 lifted a six-year ban on emigration to Iraq. 

A large number of Indians – mostly blue-collar workers – travelled to the West Asian country in search of jobs since then. 

There are now about 10,000 Indians in Iraq, mostly employed by construction and hydrocarbon companies, and the majority of them live in Erbil, Sulaimaniya and Dohuk and other cities in Kurdistan.

The MEA on June 15 last issued an advisory, asking citizens to avoid travelling to Iraq in view of the precarious security situation in that country. 

The government, however, noticed that some Indian citizens continued to travel to Iraq even after the advisory was issued.

The Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs finally instructed the Protector General of Emigrants to stop granting clearances for emigration to Iraq.

Mosul, Tikrit and several other cities of Iraq recently fell to the jihadists of an al-Qaeda offshoot. The government forces supported by civilian volunteers are now struggling to thwart the advance of the militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) towards the capital city of Baghdad.

Forty Indian construction workers were kidnapped from Mosul after the city fell to the ISIS. While one of them managed to escape, the others are still in the custody of the kidnappers. Besides, 46 Indian nurses – mostly from Kerala – are stranded in Tikrit.

India had scaled down its diplomatic contact with Iraq after the 2003 US invasion into the country to dethrone Saddam Hussain’s regime in Baghdad. New Delhi had also imposed a ban on granting emigration clearance to Iraq in 2004 in the wake of kidnapping of three Indian transport workers – Antaryami, Tilak Raj and Sukhdev. 

The trio had been released after they had been held hostage for 42 days. Intense negotiation between the Indian Embassy in Baghdad with the abductors, however, had ended with their safe return to India.

New Delhi had also revived its diplomatic contact with Baghdad a year after lifting the ban on emigration in 2010. 

Suresh Reddy had been appointed as India’s new ambassador to Iraq in 2011 after the position remained vacant for almost seven years.

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