"It was dangerous. War has started in areas that are just 30 kilometres away from our working site. So, we thought that it was high time for us to leave the country to save our lives," Surya, a mason from West Godavari district in Andhra Pradesh, said.
He was among the 84 labourers, who were employed in a construction project to develop villas in Najaf, which is around 180 kilometers away from the capital Baghdad. They reached Delhi this morning by a Iraqi Airways flight and have been accommodated at Andhra Pradesh Bhavan here. Of the returnees, 38 belong to Andhra Pradesh while the rest are from Telangana.
Gangarajam, who is from Telangana, claimed that their employer had not paid them wages for the last three months.
"Our company did not pay wages for the last three months. We had the contact number of Indian embassy officials in Iraq and they came for our rescue," Gangarajam, who hails from Karimnagar district, said. Several of the returnees alleged that their employer refused to extend any help for their safe return to India.
They also made allegations against a recruitment agency based in Mumbai, saying it also failed to give any assistance. "We have returned to India only because of the efforts by our embassy. Neither the company nor the agency did anything for our safe return," Srinivas from Telangana rued.
The workers were on a contract ranging between six months and two years for monthly wages from 350 US dollars to 500 US dollars.
Though the labourers expressed relief on having returned safely to India, they were worried about their future as most of them have availed loans for paying to the agency to work overseas.
Meanwhile, the central government has taken steps for sending the returnees back to their native towns.
"All the 84 labourers would be sent by an evening flight to Hyderabad today. Two officers have been deputed by the Andhra Pradesh government for coordinating with the returnees," a state government official here said.