Unpaid salary forces many Indians to stay put in Libya
47 nurses evacuated from strife-torn country among the first batch of 58 Indians taken to Tunisia by a bus on Friday.
FORTY-seven nurses evacuated from Libya arrived in India on Tuesday, marking the beginning of another massive evacuation from foreign conflict zones.
A nurse, evacuated from Libya, holds her child at the Cochin International Airport on Tuesday. — Supplied photo
Majority of 44 nurses arrived at the Cochin International Airport in Kerala and three in New Delhi. They are among the first batch of 58 Indians taken to Tunisia by a bus on Friday. Out of the remaining, 10 will arrive at Cochin on Wednesday and one will go to Hyderabad.
The 44 nurses arrived at around 8.30am by an Emirates flight from Dubai. Alwaye MLA Anwar Sadath and P. Sudeep, chief executive officer of Roots-Norka, the state agency that looks after the welfare of non-resident Keralites, received the nurses at the airport.
Chief Minister Oommen Chandy and state Minister for Non-Resident Keralites Affairs K.C. Joseph spoke to the nurses over phone as soon as they arrived at the airport. All the arrangements were made at the airport for their smooth exit.
Norka gave Rs2,000 to each nurse as travel allowance for their journey to their homes.
Sudeep said another batch of 43 nurses from Kerala had already reached the Tunisian border for return to the state.
On the request of the Kerala Chief Minister, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj has agreed to send a special flight to Tunisia to bring them along with others who are ready to return. Sudeep said the date of return of these nurses will be decided only after enough people reach Tunis to fill the flight.
The Norka official said the minister had also agreed to send a special aircraft to Malta to bring Indians evacuated from Benghazhi. Chandy sought special flight as road journey from Benghazhi to Tunisia is not considered safe. The people trapped in Benghazhi may be ferried to Malta.
The Ministry of External Affairs is already in touch with the Government of Malta to facilitate the arrival of Indian nationals. About 450 Indians working in the western part of Libya are getting ready to return. Libyan companies employing them have allowed them to return to India at their own cost.
Majority of Indians in the strife-torn country is not yet ready to return. Only 10 per cent of estimated 6,000 Indians in Libya have expressed their desire to return to their country so far. They include 750 nurses working in various hospitals at Tripoli and Benghazi. Majority of the nurses are from Kerala.
The Norka official said that only 322 Keralites had registered their names with Norka for help to return to the state. Nurses, who returned on Tuesday, said majority of the people was reluctant to return as they had not got their salary for several months.
Seena, a nurse from Kottayam said most of her friends were planning to return after receiving their pending salaries.
The authorities at the Tripoli Medical Centre, where about 450 Indian nurses work, have refused to give outstanding salary and other benefits if the employees sought to resign.
The nurses, who returned on Tuesday, said they decided to forgo the benefits as they felt insecure in Tripoli.
Seena told the Khaleej Times that the lawlessness prevailing in the conflict zones had forced youths to indulge in robbery. She said Indians and other foreigners were their easy targets. Seena said a group of youths barged into the hostel of her colleagues and walked away with all the valuables.
Seena herself was also robbed of her salary and a mobile by a taxi driver she hired to go to her hostel. Besides, living in Tripoli has also become difficult due to acute shortage of essential commodities and spiralling prices of most goods.
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