Several hundred Bangladeshi migrants in Iraq are passing their days in fear and anxiety as Sunni insurgents swept over a large part of the country's north in last two weeks.
“Around 1,000 to 1,200 Bangladeshis in Mosul are facing problems as the rebels are still dominating there, but the others in Baghdad and southern part of Iraq are safe,” Khandker Showkat Hossain, secretary at expatriates welfare and overseas employment ministry, said yesterday.
Bangladeshis in Mosul, Tikrit and Basra are in trouble as the insurgents have tightened their grip on these regions.
Meanwhile, the fate of 33 Bangladeshis in the restive Tikrit city is uncertain as they are not getting any assistance from the authorities concerned. Expatriates have been suffering in inhuman conditions in an under-construction hospital building there for the last nine days.
“We are still in the hospital building. Our main problem is shortage of food and water. Besides, there is no electricity which aggravates our suffering,” expatriate Jitendra told The Daily Star over the phone.
They cannot buy food as local Iraqis have fled the area, leaving all shops and businesses closed.
“We don't know what lies ahead of us. We don't have enough food and can't contact anybody as we have no balance in our mobile phones,” added Jitendra.
However, the expatriates welfare secretary claimed that 27 Bangladeshis are facing problems in that hospital building as Tikrit has fallen to rebels.
“It's difficult to provide the expatriates with emergency assistance as the region is still under control of the insurgents. The migrants need to survive with the help of local people until normalcy returns there,” mentioned Showkat.
There are around 25,000 Bangladeshis in Iraq. Of them, about 95 percent are safe in Baghdad, Najaf, Karbala and other southern cities, he noted.
Some Bangladeshis would be repatriated if the situation worsened further, , said the official, adding that the government has been in contact with the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) for any probable repatriation of Bangladeshis.
The government and the IOM will sit tomorrow to discuss the probable repatriation.
HOTLINES SET UP
The Bangladesh embassy in Baghdad yesterday set up two hotlines to assist the expatriates. The numbers are 00964-7816601805 and 00964-7814238351.
Talking to this newspaper on Tuesday, Bangladesh envoy in Iraq Maj Gen Rezanur Rahman Khan said the embassy shifted 51 Bangladeshis to Kurdistan from Mosul.
Of them, 34 have fled from there while the rest are now staying in Erbil, the capital of Kurdistan region, said victim Abul Kalam from Erbil yesterday.
“No embassy official has contacted us as yet. We are often changing our location to stay safe,” he told this correspondent over the phone.
Some migrants, though, are unwilling to return home as they had to spend a hefty amount to land a job in the Middle Eastern country.
The expatriates welfare secretary claimed that 35 Bangladeshis in Kurdistan were under the supervision of the Bangladesh embassy, while 16 others went away.