Panic has gripped hundreds of Bangladeshi migrants in Iraq as the Iraqi authorities continue drives against undocumented migrants following an economic recession in the war-torn country due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Deported workers alleged that the security agencies in Iraq tortured the undocumented migrants after arresting them as their work permit had expired during the ongoing lockdown enforced by the government during the pandemic.
Bangladesh government officials said that the drive against undocumented migrants was not targeted against Bangladeshi workers only but against all migrants.
Iraq so far deported 25,000 Bangladeshis in the last six months after their arrest from places like Bagdad, Basra, Karbala and Najaf, they said.
Deported workers and the migrants who are on the run in Iraq said that their employers were willing to resume their jobs but the government did not renew their working permit made them undocumented.
They alleged that many Bangladeshi workers were tortured brutally in police camps and jails for not paying an overstaying penalty while the Bangladesh embassy in Iraq and the international rights groups were doing nothing to uphold their rights.
Shahadat Hossain, who was forced to return home on February 13 and are now in Feni, his paternal home, said that he remained captive in a jail near Bagdad for 10 days, where he was stripped and beaten and was also not given food.
He said that at the jail and in police custody he saw over 70 Bangladeshi people and also some Pakistani and Syrian workers.
Labour councillor of Bangladesh embassy in Bagdad Muhammad Rezaul Kabir said that they were working to get documents for the Bangladeshi migrants but due to political instability and government policy it remained halted.
‘We have requested the authority for a general amnesty,’ he said, adding that thousands of workers became undocumented as Iraq government did not renew the work permit of the migrants of 14 countries in the last two years.
Embassy officials said that roughly at least 25 workers are deported from Iraq daily in the ongoing drive.
Md Asadul Islam, coordinator of a social welfare group of Bangladeshi migrants in Iraq, said that he had come to know that around 630 Bangladeshi migrants were arrested in the last three days till 23 February.
Emdadul Haque, a deported worker, said that he had returned home with 11 other migrants on February 8 and had seen 70 Bangladeshi migrants in the same prison where he had been detained for three days.
Officials said that more than two lakh Bangladeshi migrant workers worked in war-torn Iraq and all of them are living in fear that they would become illegal soon due to the suspension of work permit renewal in the country.
Workers said that many of their co-workers had already become illegal.
Want stories like this in your inbox?
Sign up to exclusive daily email
More Stories from Foreign affairs