Iraq + 3 more

Migrants stranded in Iraq as funds dry up to assist them to return home

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Requests for assistance to help stranded migrants lured to Iraq under false pretences or unknowingly taken to work there by unscrupulous recruitment agencies are unable to be met as funds for such assistance have dried up this year.

IOM is urgently seeking US$2.5 million to help up to 700 destitute migrants, some of whom have been trafficked to Iraq for labour exploitation, to return home in the next two years.

In previous years, the Organization has been able to assist many hundreds of desperate migrants each year to return home. In 2009, only 32 migrants have been assisted through an emergency fund to provide humanitarian assistance to individual migrants stranded in another country.

"We know there are large groups from different nationalities whose situation is really dire. Life for Iraqis is difficult. It is worse for migrants. This is an issue that needs specific address," says Mike Pillinger, IOM Chief of Mission for Iraq.

Despite Iraq's instability and difficult security and socio-economic conditions, the country is, nevertheless, a destination country for migrants from mainly Asia and Africa.

Many are lured by the possibility of making easy money in sectors like construction, carpentry and domestic labour. Migrants from countries like Bangladesh, Pakistan and Uganda are often coerced to sign false employment contracts once in Iraq. Their passports are confiscated and they become victims of exploitation and abuse, working in inhumane conditions. For the privilege, they have had to pay exorbitant recruitment fees which have put them and their families in debt.

Others had used recruitment agents to go to the Middle East or the Gulf but ended up in Iraq against their will, in similarly abusive situations.

In other cases, such as for Sudanese migrants who have lived in Iraq for several years, the deterioration in employment conditions has left them penniless with few opportunities, poor guarantees and no means to return home.

IOM has helped more than 7,000 migrants of nearly 40 different nationalities in the past six years. As funding has dried up, the number of stranded migrants needing assistance has increased although the true scale of the problem is unknown.

"It will be impossible to get a really clear picture on numbers of migrants needing help as many are too scared to try and seek help because of possible repercussions. What we do know is that there are hundreds of extremely vulnerable people each year who need help and who are not getting it. Not being able to help them is extremely hard," adds Pillinger.

For further information, please contact Rex Alamban, IOM Iraq, Tel: +00962 65659660, email: ralamban@iom.int

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