'Employers withholding Indians' passports'

'Employers withholding Indians' passports'

The Amnesty International on Saturday alleged that several hundred Indian nationals in the Najaf province of Iraq were unable to return home because their employer was refusing to return their passports.

The Embassy of India in Baghdad has got in touch with the construction company that employs the Indians Amnesty International has referred to.

 Sources in New Delhi said since Najaf in southern Iraq was unaffected by the current conflict between the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) jihadists and the Iraqi forces, the firm insisted that the employees who wanted to leave should do so after fulfilling their contractual obligations.

An official from the embassy will travel to Najaf to take part in a meeting between the company’s management and its Indian employees on Monday.

New Delhi hopes that the meeting would find a way out and the Indian employees who want to leave Iraq would be able to return to India soon.

120 in conflict zones

Though more than 10,000 Indians live and work in Iraq, only 120 are in the conflict zones, including the 39 who were kidnapped from the ISIL-held city of Mosul, and 46 nurses—mostly from Kerala—in Tikrit.

Sixteen other Indians have been able to come out of the conflict zone and fly out of Iraq.

The Amnesty International spoke to some of the employees of the company in Najaf. “The employer holds all our passports and refuses to return them. We have been restricting ourselves to the company premises since the conflict began because we are scared.

Without our passports, we cannot leave this country, and every passing day makes us feel more and more unsafe. We just want to go home,” the international human rights organisation quoted one of the employees as saying in its press release issued in New Delhi.

“Migrant workers, including those from India, are among the most vulnerable groups in Iraq as fighting between government forces and armed groups led by ISIL spreads to other areas in the country,” stated Amnesty International.

Most companies in Iraq and elsewhere in the Gulf region generally ask foreign employees to deposit their passports and issue them a local identity card to carry around.

The passports are returned only at the end of employment. An employee can, however, quit even before his term ends and return to his home country, but only after fulfilling exit norms outlined in his or her contract with the employer.

Another Turkish power company also has 1,350 Indian workers in a project in Kurdistan, and 49 of them want to leave, although this region too is unaffected by the conflict.

The embassy has intervened with the company management to ensure that the employees can return home without any trouble. They are expected to fly out on Monday, said sources in New Delhi.

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