Iraqi men line up outside of the main army recruiting center to volunteer for military service in Baghdad, Iraq. (AP/PTI)
The government is in regular touch with the Indian nationals in Iraq and the 44 nurses who are trapped, are safe, the external affairs ministry said Tuesday.
The nurses from Kerala are stranded in different hospitals in Tikrit in strife-torn Iraq and chances of their immediate evacuation are slim as the government forces and ISIL militants are battling for supremacy, said Non-Kerala Resident Affairs Minister KC Joseph.
He said out of 44, 32 nurses had expressed willingness to come back and the state government would do everything to ensure their safe return. Since road and communication networks were badly damaged due to the fighting, the Indian Embassy has advised them to remain in their hospitals for now, the minister said.
“We can shift these nurses to the airport once normalcy returns. Since shell attacks are going on it is difficult for the administration in Iraq to ensure their safety. Even the Red Cross officials advised them to remain in hospital for now,” said the minister in the state assembly.
The Kerala Nurses Association has asked Chief Minister Oommen Chandy to intervene and ensure their speedy return.
“So far nurses are safe and Indian Embassy officials are in touch with them. Since the situation is volatile we can’t do anything for now,” the minister said adding the government was in constant touch with the external affairs ministry. Most of the nurses were recruited to work in Iraq two years ago.
The Kerala Nurses’ Associations said they were not paid salaries for last two months and they find it difficult to meet their ends. Although their employers had granted them permission to go back they were not ready to provide any help in escorting them to nearest airport, the association said. The CM has also called up external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj seeking her help.