The Ministry of External Affairs said on Saturday that it has rescued and repatriated about 250 Indians who were “forced to undertake illegal cyber work” in Cambodia. Of these, 75 persons were repatriated in the last three months.

A report in The Indian Express on Friday had claimed that there are at least 5,000 Indians who have been “forced into cyber-slavery in Cambodia” by fraudsters.

“We have seen media reports on Indian nationals stuck in Cambodia,” said Ministry of External Affairs Spokesperson Randhir Jaiswal. “Our Embassy in Cambodia has been promptly responding to complaints from Indian nationals who were lured with employment opportunities to that country but were forced to undertake illegal cyber work.”

Jaiswal said that the ministry remains “committed to helping all those Indian nationals in Cambodia who seek our support”.

“We are also working with Cambodian authorities and with agencies in India to crack down on those responsible for these fraudulent schemes,” Jaiswal added, without specifying any estimate on the likely number of Indians who are still trapped in the Southeast Asian country.

According to The Indian Express, the matter came to light after the Rourkela Police in Odisha busted a cyber-crime syndicate in December, arresting eight people who were allegedly involved in trafficking Indians to Cambodia.

Rourkela Sub Divisional Police Officer Upasana Padhi was quoted by The Indian Express as saying that agents had been taking men identified as potential scamsters to Cambodia by promising them jobs.

“But once they land in Cambodia, they are made to join these companies that indulge in fraud,” Padhi said. “The companies take away the passports of these men and make them work 12 hours a day…Many Indians who are not willing to engage in such scams are trapped there. We are trying to identify them, contact them and bring them back to India through proper channels.”

Arathi Krishna, deputy chairman of the Non-Resident Indian Forum of the Government of Karnataka, told The Indian Express that three residents of the state who were trapped in Cambodia had been rescued with the help of the external affairs ministry.

“Our organisation was approached by their family members and they informed us that they went to work as data entry operators, but were forced to carry out cyber scams,” Krishna said.