Nearly 2,000 Indians live in Libya where the Islamic State (IS) has stepped up its offensive to use the country as a launch pad to extend its influence to north Africa, leaving the security situation extremely volatile.
The detention of four Indians, two of whom were freed on Friday, in the Libyan city of Sirte on July 29 sparked fears of the involvement of IS as the city is effectively under the group's control and brought to the fore how precarious the situation remains in the troubled nation.
Ironically, even after several advisories to the contrary, the Indians wish to stay put in that country as leaving would amount to losing livelihood.
“We have issued many advisories, the last one on July 6, and time and again advised against Indians taking up employment in Libya. Still there are 2,000 Indians there,” an official said.
Though capital Tripoli was one of the venues for international yoga day celebrations on June 21, the security situation has been worsening in most parts of the country that was home to 18,000 Indian nationals prior to the uprising of 2011.
Another round of evacuation that began in 2014 brought back 3,592 Indians by June 2015.
Definitive data are not available on what professions Indians practise in Libya, but they are mostly said to be in the health, teaching and construction sectors.
There is no direct flight from India to Libya at present. Following the destruction of the Tripoli international airport in July 2014, no commercial foreign airline flights operate from Tripoli. The Mitiga airbase is now used for limited Libyan airline flights to Istanbul in Turkey.
International security experts estimate there could be as many as 3,000 fighters loyal to the IS in Libya. The north African nation has become a training ground for the group outside of Syria and Iraq. It has also succeeded in pulling away members of other Libyan extremist groups to consolidate its position.