Nurses reluctant to return from war-torn Yemen as India mobilises rescue plan

  • HT Correspondents, Hindustan Times, Thiruvananthapuram/New Delhi
  • Updated: Mar 31, 2015 02:25 IST

Evacuation of Indians holed up in Yemen panned out in a familiar direction on Monday following reports that hundreds of nurses from Kerala working in the Gulf nation were reluctant to return because of scarce opportunities at home.

The context of their reluctance was akin to what Indian nurses had mentioned during similar efforts in the past in Libya, Iraq and Kuwait: they wouldn’t forego their dues because they have huge educational loans to repay and had coughed up a hefty amount for travel papers to work abroad, especially in West Asia, sources said.

Most of the more than 500 Keralite nurses were willing to stay put in the war-ravaged country despite food and water scarcity, besides the growing risk to their lives from relentless airstrikes, because they were not paid for the past three months or more and the Yemeni employers have declined to give back their passports.

The Kerala administration tried to persuade them to change their mind amid the Narendra Modi government’s efforts on Monday to evacuate 400 Indians by ship from war-torn Yemeni port city Aden, from where they will be taken to Djibouti before putting them on a flight home.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi shared his concern with Saudi ruler King Salman bin Abdul aziz Al Saud about the safety and welfare of approximately 4,000 Indian citizens in Yemen. He briefed the king on India’s evacuation plan and requested his support.

Smoke billows near military barracks in the Jabal al-Jumaima mountain following an air strike near Sanaa. (Reuters)

Junior foreign minister Gen (retired) VK Singh will be leaving for Djibouti on Tuesday to oversee the evacuation plans, which involves two heavy-duty C-17 Globemaster aircraft and two ships stocked with provisions. “Air India has positioned two planes in Muscat,” foreign ministry spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin said.

Besides, the Cochin Port Trust has sent two ships stocked with provisions to Djibouti to evacuate Indians. These will reach the African port close to Yemen in a week.

“The situation is getting bad to worse. The war has stranded at least 3,000 Indians, mostly nurses. Saudi planes are bombing rebel targets at night but the situation will be different once the Houthis move to populated areas,” said T Lijo, an IT professional from Kerala, who was among 80 Indians who returned from Sanaa via Djibouti where the Indian mission assisted them in the evacuation process.

No Indian has been reported killed or wounded in the fighting in Yemen as the Saudi-led coalition continued its airstrikes targeting Shia Muslim fighters, called Houthis, who have overrun most of the tiny nation and forced West-backed president Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi to flee.

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