Union Food Processing Industries Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal on Monday said all seven Punjabi youth who had been stranded in Erbil in Iraq for the last eight months after being duped by a travel agent would return to their homeland on 27 July.

Disclosing this on Monday, the Union minister said she had been informed by the Indian Consul General in Erbil that exit stamps had been affixed on the passports of the stranded youth.

She said this was done after the Consul General took up the issue of payment of overstay fine by the sponsor which had also be done. “Now only a few court formalities are left which are expected to be undertaken today itself to facilitate the return of the youth to their homeland,” Harsimrat said.

The minister disclosed that she had been apprised that the required tickets had been purchased and that they had been sent to the youth. “The youth will board a flight for Delhi on July 26 and reach early morning on July 27,” she added.

Thanking Union external affairs minister S Jaishankar for the affirmative action taken by him to bring the stranded youth back following a representation by the SAD as well as parents of the youth, Harsimrat said the Erbil Consul General had extended much needed legal and financial aid to the youth to enable them to return to their homeland.

Giving a brief about the case, the minister said the seven youth from Jalandhar and Kapurthala districts had been duped by a travel agent who had promised them jobs in Iraq. She said the agent had taken money to provide the necessary work papers but did not provide any documents to them to make them eligible to work in Iraq.

Meanwhile, Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) leader Bikram Majithia announced that the SAD has established a helpline to help distressed non-resident Indians (NRIs) across the world. He said NRIs could approach the SAD for resolving any difficulty being faced by them.

The helpline number is 0172-2639260 and will be operational from 9 am to 5 pm six days a week from Monday to Saturday. Majithia also demanded that the Congress government in Punjab comes out with an online complaint registration system to help NRIs duped by travel agents.