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Desperate to return, Indian nurses in Libya call home

Sijo Xavier, the husband of one of the nurses, Liji, said: “The hospital has 450 nurses from Kerala. ”

By: Express News Service Written by Shaju Philip | Thiruvananthapuram |
July 31, 2014 2:20:39 am

Indian nurses working at the Tripoli Medical Centre in strife-torn Libya made distress calls to their families in Kerala on Wednesday after militants abducted a nurse who hails from the Philippines, the nurses’ relatives said.

Sijo Xavier, the husband of one of the nurses, Liji, said: “The hospital has 450 nurses from Kerala. Earlier, only 67 wanted to quit. But now, 200 have moved their resignation.”

Quoting his wife, a native of Kottayam, Xavier said the communication network there has collapsed due to erratic power supply. “My wife called after she came out of the hospital compound for a short time. The militants had abducted a Philippine nurse from outside the hospital. She was released later. The incident has worried Indian nurses, they are afraid of going out of the complex.”

Xavier said taxi services in Libya were also hit due to fuel shortage, rendering the nurses, who need raw materials to cook in their hostel, helpless.

“Power supply is almost gone and mobile phones are not working. She managed to call me from a public facility after coming out,” said Xavier.

Albin Babu, the husband of another nurse, Nancy, said his wife had quit her job a month ago to return to India. “But getting out of the hospital is a risk. She and a few other nurses have been staying at the hostel. Now, even that has become dangerous as the hospital has asked the nurses to move to the hospital complex. I don’t know whether the hospital would take care of staffers who had quit,” said Babu.

Babu said his wife managed to make a short call due to the paralysed communication system. “I was also told a Philippine nurse was abducted, while another managed to escape,” said Babu.

Meanwhile, Non-Resident Keralites Affairs Minister K C Joseph said 123 nurses from Tripoli have already registered with them seeking government intervention for their safe return. “So far, the nurses are safe. But the war is intensifying and they are worried. The state government has been updating the External Affairs Ministry about the distress calls from the nurses. We hope the ministry would take them to Tunisia via road and get them to India,” said Joseph.

According to the Association of Parents of Nurses in Libya, around 500 nurses from Kerala are working in Libya.

Govt moves to bring Indians home

The government on Wednesday moved in to fly out Indians from Libya, buying tickets for those who want to return in the wake of the deteriorating law and order situation in the strife-torn country.

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj Wednesday chaired a high-level meeting on the situation in Libya, in which she asked for funds to be transferred from the Indian Community Welfare Fund from the UAE for use by Indian nationals in difficult circumstances in Libya, MEA spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin said.

“Tickets are being purchased for those Indian nationals who have shown interest in returning to India. At this stage, we have confirmation of 58 nurses who would like to return to India,” he said.

“Options are being looked at to move Indian nationals in the eastern part of Libya, that is Benghazi and the other side, to return to India,” the MEA spokesperson said, hoping the first batch of Indian nationals start returning before the weekend.

Since the Tripoli airport is under siege, the Indian embassy is trying to bring Indians back home through the Tunisian border route. The government also decided to send a Joint Secretary-level officer to facilitate the process.

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