It was a nightmarish ordeal overseas for an unemployed youth from a village in Odisha's Kendrapara district.
Looking for a job abroad, the construction worker found himself in an Iraqi jail after he allegedly broke Iraq's immigration law. The worker, least versed with legal complexities of immigration law, continues to rot in prison though he has already undergone the prison sentence awarded by the foreign court, a district official here said.
Sraban Sahoo from Manapada village in Rajnagar area had gone to the oil-rich country on a tourist visa instead of employment visa. An Iraqi court had convicted him to six month jail for the illegality, Kenddrapara District Collector Pramod Kumar Dash.
With none to take up his plight in the alien land, Sahoo has overstayed for more than two months in jail of the strife- torn country, the official said. "Sahoo's whereabouts in Iraq have been traced. He has been lodged in a jail in Hilla near Iraqi capital Baghdad. Kendrapara MP Baijayant Panda had taken up the matter with the External Affairs Ministry. Following Union ministry's intervention, the Embassy of India at Baghdad could ascertain that Sahoo is in jail at Hilla," Dash said.
Sahoo has completed his six months term for illegal stay in Iraq and is likely to be released soon. Indian ambassador stationed at Baghdad has informed that arrangement for his repatriation to India would be made following his release after completion of required legal formalities, Dash said.
Migrant skilled workers from Odisha in search of employment opportunities head towards foreign countries on tourist visa the validity of which is three months.
Thereafter, the expatriates lose the right to stay overseas and are stuck in legal tangle and Sahoo faced the same fate as he was on a tourist visa, said District Labour Officer, Bighnajit Mohapatra. Migrant workers from Kendrapara had left Saudi Arabia earlier this year following crackdown on illegal immigrants. The expatriates had been residing illegally in the Kingdom without valid legal documents.
Over a hundred migrant workers from Kendrapara and Jagatsinghpur district had returned home from Saudi Arabia, Mohapatra said.
Illegal expatriates who overstay in foreign countries had faced similar problems in the past. About 30 workers from Kendrapara were repatriated last year from Malaysia following expiry of visa period, Mohapatra said.
In major areas of this district, plumbing is a significant economic activity that has been a source of income to thousands of families in this no-industry district. This trend is in vogue for generations together. Besides the major urban centres, the plumbers mainly from Pattamundai, Rajnagar and Aul regions have spread their network in various places across the country. "Keeping in view the vulnerability of Kendrapara migrant workers based abroad, the district administration should create a registry to monitor their working conditions and protect them from exploitation and immigration problems," said trade unionist Gayadhar Dhal.