More than two lakh Bangladeshi migrant workers in war-torn Iraq are in fear that they would become illegal soon due suspension of visa renewal in the country.
Workers said that many of their co-workers had already become illegal as their visas had not been renewed and were being arrested in raids conducted by the police in places like Bagdad, Basra, Karbala and Najaf.
They said that Iraqi authorities had strengthened their raids against illegal migrants gradually as COVID-19 pandemic restrictions had been eased.
Bangladesh embassy officials in Iraq said that around 2.5 lakh Bangladeshi workers were staying in the country and many of them could not renew visas for months.
They said that even after lobbying strongly with the Iraqi government they failed to convince authorities to start renewing visas due to the political instability in the country.
They said that the law and order situation in Iraq also was not migrant worker-friendly.
They said that the embassy had urged the Iraqi government for a general amnesty, but it had only given assurances.
Bangladesh ambassador in Iraq Abu Maksud M Forhad told New Age that a senior Iraqi official had assured him of general amnesty for workers with expired visas so that they could continue jobs without hassle.
‘Visa activities in Iraq are totally suspended now,’ he said.
Workers said that they were living in uncertainty due to the crisis.
Md Asadul Islam, a Bangladeshi migrant staying in Bagdad, said that many migrant workers in Iraq, some without jobs, were passing inhuman life for lack of the legal permission.
‘We always live in fear of arrest by the police,’ he said.
Masud Rana Shahin, who is working in a car showroom in Bagdad, said that he had been living there illegally, which had created many problems in his life.
‘I cannot get any support from Bangladesh embassy as I cannot go there passing a number of Iraqi check posts on the way,’ he said.
Another migrant worker, Noman Hossain Khan, said that his residence was raided four times only in August.
He escaped the raids, but three other Bangladeshis were arrested, he said.
‘The arrested have not been released,’ he said.
Workers said that they believed that only an understanding between the governments of two countries could solve the crisis.
Embassy officials said that government of Iraq had been changed three times in a year and their migrant-worker policy also changed.
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