Post war Iraq efforts to build the infra structure and the construction industry in Iraq is currently luring Indian work migrants predominately from India, Bengaldesh and Kenya as well as other parts of South-East Asia and Africa.
We at ‘Justice Upheld’ are concerned to have received a spate of harrowing calls in recent days from a number of foreign nationals who have travelled to Iraq to work in semi skilled and skilled posts only to end up being ‘sold’ to Iraqi gang masters who are forcing them to do unpaid menial jobs. Any questioning and refusal to the jobs has resulted in the work migrants being physically assaulted, humiliated and deprived of their dignity. Their passports have been confiscated and the are expected to live in substandard accommodation without access to mains power and or access to fresh water. They have not been paid the salaries since their arrival there. Groups of these work migrants are currently accommodated in disused shipping containers.
A young Sikh gentleman from Punjab, India was asked by the gang master to remove his turban and to shave his hair and beard; he refused to do so. He was brutally assaulted and currently lives in fear of his life. We are working with the Indian authorities to secure his repatriation as well as helping others to return to their home countries.
Another group of Indian migrant workers who initially refused to work directed by the Iraqi gang master were brutally assaulted. They were forced to do the work directed by the gang master. They have not been paid and have been forced to beg for food. The gang master is now prepared to release them strictly on the condition that they each pay him $500 USD – money that they and their families will struggle to raise. There is of course no guarantee that payment of the money will result in their release and repatriation.
Some of the Indian migrant claim that they secured these posts via Government approved recruitment agents however, they are now distancing themselves from the situation by claiming that their liability ended when the migrants were passed on to the Iraqi ‘recruitment agents’, who are in reality the gang masters. The matter is being investigated by the Indian Police.
The Indian authorities must do considerable more to alert the prospective migrant workers of the harsh realities and risks of working in these wretched countries were respect for fellow human beings and for human rights is non existent. Their belief in their superiority is the order of the day.