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Foreign workers in Iraq face uncertainty as violence escalates

Tue, 17 Jun 2014 | By Paul Nettleton
Escalating violence in Iraq is making the position of foreign workers in the country more uncertain as civilians take up arms to join government forces trying to halt the advance of the extremists of Isis.

The position of British contractors working largely in the oil & gas and telecoms sectors is hard to establish.

Recruiter.co.uk approached a number of global recruitment companies about their response to events.

These included NES Global Talent, which as recently as May announced the opening of a second office in the Iraq region, at Erbil in Iraqi Kurdistan, described by operations manager Vikram Nanda as “one of the hottest spots globally for the oil & gas industry”.

The company said in a statement: “NES Global Talent is working closely with its client security teams and security consultants. We are also in direct communication with our contractors in the region to ensure our people are safe and kept abreast of the situation as it develops.”

At Tangent International, group operations director Lord Stanton of Avon told recruiter.co.uk: “Fortunately we do not have any staff or consultants working in Iraq at present, so the current conflict is not a direct issue for us.

“However, as a major international recruitment company that has operated in 100-plus countries, Tangent faces armed conflict/terrorist related incidents from time to time, as well as natural disasters. In 2012 it was the conflict in Egypt, in 2013 it was Sudan and this year, so far, we have had the bombing in Nairobi, Kenya. 

“The people affected by such an incident are not just those working in the location, but also those working away from home but with families living in the location. A dangerous conflict often requires us to fly people home or at least to a safer country/location or to relocate them to high-security accommodation.   

“Tangent has a dedicated Candidate Care Team who once alerted, possibly via online news and government information feeds to which we subscribe, immediately embark on a well-rehearsed routine. They quickly establish a full list of those involved and then contact them straightaway (sometime overnight and at weekends) establishing their situation, safety and support needs.  

“It makes the job all the more worthwhile when the consultants subsequently contact us to express their appreciation for the support given.”

For Swift Worldwide Resources, CEO Tobias Read said: "The safety of our workers is our top priority: once you join Swift, you become a member of the 'Swiftie' family. We can’t provide specifics for security reasons, but we are closely monitoring the situation and are working with our clients in Iraq to take all necessary measures to keep our people out of harm’s way.”

Responses in other countries range from the announcement by US defence company Lockheed Martin of plans to evacuate all employees from the Balad area of Northern Iraq to the offer of a free plane rode home to overseas Flipino workers in both Iraq and Libya, where there also security fears, by the Philippines government.

The Lockheed Martin workers were there to support Iraq air force F-16s, while most of the 900 Filipinos have been working in the relatively safer Kurdish territories.

Today the Foreign & Commonwealth Office in London was advising on its website against all travel to:

  • “The districts of Ramadi and Fallujah in Anbar province, and to the whole of Ninewah, Salah-ad-Din and Diyala provinces. There are reports of clashes between security forces and militants in these areas. If you’re currently in these areas you should leave now.”

The FCO also advised against all but essential travel to:

  • “The rest of Iraq, except the Kurdistan region. The security situation remains uncertain. British nationals in Baghdad should have robust contingency plans in place and continue to monitor media reporting. You should stay in close contact with your private security companies and to monitor our travel advice pages.”

In May the US warned of possible kidnap operations by militant groups against Americans. The Foreign Office advice is that this applies equally to Britons “particularly oil company employees working in Basra province. The groups may be focused on hotels in the Basra area”.

• Have you got operations or are you working in Iraq? Email us at recruiter.editorial@redactive.co.uk. And the Comment box is at the bottom of the page. Sorry for the glitch but just scroll right down and share your opinions!

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