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IOM: South Asian Migrants Stranded in Iraq


The International Organization for Migration reports hundreds of migrants lured to Iraq by promises of well-paid jobs are stranded around the airport in Baghdad. IOM says the men are living in dire straits without any means of going home.

The International Organization for Migration says the migrants arrived in Iraq about four months ago expecting lucrative employment, promised by recruiters. But, the promised jobs did not materialize.

IOM says they were left without any money and some had their passports taken away. The organization says the men, who come from Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Sri Lanka, are living in makeshift conditions in a hangar close to the airport in Baghdad or are camped out on roadsides.

Spokesman Jean-Philippe Chauzy tells VOA aid workers recently found a group of about 60 men living in tents or containers, with not access to water or sanitation.

"They actually paid their own way to Iraq. Some of them borrowed thousands of dollars to get to Iraq. Some of them sold land, for instance, or borrowed money. But, once they arrived in Iraq, the jobs that were promised to them suddenly evaporated," he said. "And, these contractual workers were left completely stranded, without any financial resources, without any passport or travel documents that were taken away by this group of intermediaries. And, currently, they are completely marooned and stuck in Baghdad without the possibility of returning home."

Chauzy says 1,000 migrants from various nationalities reportedly are being kept in three warehouses in a secured area around the airport, without their passports. He says most of these men are predominantly South Asian and were contracted by a catering company.

He says some of the men visited by IOM staff begged for help to return home. Others said they could not go back until they could pay off their debts. He says some Nepalese have managed to go home either through help from their families or by borrowing money from fellow Nepalese migrants with jobs in Iraq, thereby increasing their debts.

He says IOM soon will be helping eight Nepalese migrants return home. But, he says the agency urgently needs about $1.5 million to assist hundreds of other migrants to return.


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