Kolkata: After suffering from terror, non-payment and starvation for several months, a group 25 people of West Bengal have returned to their home state from strife-torn Iraq via New Delhi.

The 25 evacuees including 16 from Nadia district, eight from North 24 Parganas district and one from Burdwan districts -- landed at the Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport here around 11 PM last night.

Relief was writ large on the faces of people like Jamir Mondal, Liton Haldar and Ananta Ghosh who were sent to Iraq by an agency as construction labourers. "We had never thought that we will return home, particularly after the fight began," Mondal said.

"We had been assured of decent salaries. But were not paid anything. Our passports were taken away by the agency people. We slogged days after days but did not get proper food," he said.

Things turned to worse after the strife commenced over a month ago when they were working at a university in Basra, recalled Haldar. "The food supply became erratic.

The air became heavy with the sound of gunshots and bombs. Thankfully we were not held hostage by any organisation," Haldar said. "But still we got panicked. Hiding at various places we used to lament that we will not be able to see our village," he said.

"Some of us were there for a year and some for six months. But none had their passport with them. We also did not have money. How could we even dream of returning home," Ghosh questioned. "Somehow we managed to contact the Indian embassy via the Internet. The embassy officials with the help of the police then rescued us, forced the agency people to return our passports and arranged for our homecoming," he said.

State minister Jyotipriya Mullick was at the airport to receive the 25 people as a representative of the West Bengal government which also arranged for their transport to go to their respective places.