Wrong Country

GENEVA, Feb 6, 2007 (AFP) – A group of Sri Lankans who paid for jobs in the Gulf were locked into a building site in Iraq for two weeks before they realised they were in the wrong country, an international agency said Tuesday. The 17 Sri Lankan migrant workers, who had paid 2,000 dollars each to a recruitment agency, were brought back home by the International Organisation for Migration on Monday, IOM spokeswoman Jemini Pandya said.

Pandya said they had signed contracts in Sri Lanka for jobs as domestic or textile workers in unspecified Gulf countries.

Their passports were confiscated when they arrived and they were taken on to another location, which turned out to be Erbil in northern Iraq.

The Sri Lankans were locked into a house near Erbil, which they were meant to renovate, without food or sanitation, and were surprised by the cold weather.

“The migrants were kept in the house and it was up to two weeks before they realised they were not in a Gulf country but in Iraq,” Pandya told journalists.

“They insisted on going back home to Sri Lanka but their demands were met with abuse and threats, amongst which was the threat of being taken to Baghdad and dumped there unless they complied,” she explained.