A total of 180 Bangladeshi migrants have been languishing in restive Iraq for over two months as they are kept confined at their workplace at Najaf.
Under constant watch by security guards of the Turkish employer, the expatriates are passing their days at a makeshift house without enough food and water.
Recruiting agency Career Overseas Consultants Ltd had sent the Bangladeshis to Iraq in late May for working at Abu Torab Housing Project in Najaf, said Jabed Ahmed, younger brother of expatriate Md Siddique. “After a month, my brother informed me that they had been held hostage at their workplace without enough food and water,” added Jabed.
Family members of the migrants could not confirm why their relatives were confined at the workplace.
The agency took Tk 4 lakh from each of the jobseekers. Though the recruiter had said the employer would pay project engineer Siddique $1200 per month, he didn't receive a single penny as yet.
As a conflict erupted in Iraq in June between Sunni rebels and the Iraqi government forces, the company management left the project site, leaving the Bangladeshis confined there.
None of the Bangladeshis can contact the families at home as they don't have access to phone or internet, Jabed said quoting his brother as saying.
Mother of another migrant Zakir Hossain of Jessore, Aklima Begum said her son wanted to return home, but he could not. “He asked me to do whatever is needed to rescue him from confinement,” she added.
Aklima had borrowed a big amount from a local NGO to send her son abroad and now she has been left clueless about what to do.
Jabed in the mean time contacted Rights Jessore to rescue his brother from confinement. The NGO last month communicated with the expatriates' welfare, foreign affairs and home ministries, and also the Bangladesh embassy in Baghdad to seek assistance in this regard.
Binoy Krishna Mallick, executive director of the rights platform, said they were yet to receive any response from the government authorities concerned.
Asked about the ordeal of the Bangladeshis in Iraq, Begum Shamsun Nahar, director general of Bureau of Manpower, Employment and Training, said they didn't receive any complaint from any sources in this regard.
“Upon receiving a complaint, we'll investigate the matter and take measures accordingly,” she told The Daily Star.
Despite repeated attempts, this newspaper could not reach the recruiting agency and the Bangladesh embassy in Baghdad over the phone.
Meanwhile, Rights Jessore held a press conference at Jessore Press Club yesterday to disclose the suffering of the confined expatriates before the media.
Over 20,000 Bangladeshis are now working in Iraq, according to the expatriates' welfare and overseas employment ministry.