Phagwara: Some of the youths, who have reached home safely from strife-torn Iraq, on Friday said that their return was like a second birth after several months of stay in a virtual "hell".
These youths had gone to Iraq about eight months ago.
Narrating his tale of woe, Joga Singh of Wariahan village said that he, along with 40 other Punjabis, worked as labourer in a Baghdad-based construction firm.
"When the conditions worsened there around 3-4 months ago, the company held us in captivity and we were treated like bonded labourers, herded like cattle, given meagre meals and beaten black and blue when we demanded our wages," said Joga, who is in his thirties.
He said some of them contacted Indian Embassy in Iraq and were helped by the Indian government. His wife Amarjit Kaur and mother Shinder Kaur thanked the government for his safe return.
Two other youths, Bhupinder Kumar and Ajay Kumar, both in their twenties, said that they worked in a factory near Karbala city.
The youths, both residents of Ambedkar Nagar, said when bombardment started near the site, they, along with 90 other Punjabis, were hidden by the company in basement bunkers.
"We have returned penniless as the company did not pay our salary of the last three months, though it returned our passports," said one of the youths.
The company, however, made us to sign papers that all our dues had been cleared, they claimed.
Ashok Kumar of Jassomajara village said he had gone to Iraq in search of greener pastures for mitigating the poverty of his parents but returned penniless, aggravating their penury, leaving them with even more debt.
He also said that he went without food for several days in Iraq. However, families of these youths heaved a sigh of relief on their safe return and did not want to send them back again.