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With Libya fast turning into the next big flashpoint in West Asia, the NDA government is racing to get some 4,500 Indians, including 750 nurses, out of the country.
The Indian embassy in Tripoli is in touch with them through 62 coordinators and Union external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj, who chaired a review meeting on Tuesday, has ordered the deployment of additional staff to speed up the process of getting them home.
The government had Monday cautioned its nationals against travelling to Libya, where two weeks of fierce fighting between militia groups for control of Tripoli airport and between Islamists and a former general in Benghazi has killed scores and prompted several countries to urge their citizens to leave.
Read: India asks its nationals to leave Libya
The Tripoli mission, too, had advised Indian nationals there to avoid conflict zones and use all available means to exit Libya.
This new headache for the Narendra Modi government comes close on the heels of a tense evacuation of Indians — including 42 nurses — from war-ravaged Iraq. It is still waging a desperate battle to bring back 39 labourers taken hostage by ISIS militants there.
Several Indians in Libya are already on their way back, taking the land route to Tunisia, MEA spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin said, adding that additional staff will be placed at the Tunisia mission to assist them. He also said the Tripoli mission was working with Libyan authorities to obtain the necessary exit permits for those who wanted out.
“For those who can’t afford to pay their way back, funds from the Indian Community Welfare Fund will be utilised,” Akbaruddin said.
Most professionals travelling from India to Libya work in healthcare, education and construction. There were an estimated 18,000 Indians there before the 2011 civil war fought between forces loyal to the then ruler, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, and those seeking to oust his government. During the course of the revolution, most of them were evacuated.
But over the next few years, many returned to Libya — where there is a huge demand for medical professionals — and presently there are about 6,000 Indians there.
However, due to the uncertain situation, the ministry of overseas Indian affairs recently suspended grant of clearance in the ECR (emigration clearance required) category till June 30.
Read: Foreigners urged to leave Libya amid rising violence