India speeds up Iraq evacuation, issues 530 tickets

Documents of 850 Indian nationals being prepared, says MEA

shreerupa

Shreerupa Mitra-Jha | July 2, 2014 | New Delhi



With the crisis in Iraq escalating, India on Wednesday issued 530 tickets to facilitate the return of Indian nationals stuck in the West Asian country. In addition, documents of 850 Indians are being prepared, the ministry of external affairs (MEA) told the media on Wednesday.

The maximum number of Indian passports – 350 – is being issued from Najaf, followed by Karbala (290), Basra (190) and the remaining from Iraqi capital Baghdad.

According to the MEA, 290 evacuees are coming to New Delhi followed by Hyderabad (100), Mumbai (16) and a small number to Thiruvananthapuram, Kolkata, Chennai and Bangalore. A large number of Indians also face immigration problems –overstaying, lack of documentation etc – which often involve paying fines. Officials are using the Indian welfare fund to help such evacuees, it was informed.

Work has been impeded in Karbala due to a curfew, imposed following violence between Shia clerics and the police.

Regarding the 46 Indian nurses stuck in crossfire between Sunni militants and the Iraqi army in the conflict zone of Tikrit, MEA officials said the Indian ambassador has spoken with the nurses, who are “safe and unharmed".

Earlier, bombing and firing in Tikrit area began on Tuesday (July 1).

Informing that the nurses were hiding in the building's basement, the MEA, in a statement issued on Tuesday evening, described their situation as "extremely delicate". Official MEA spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin said that "despite the difficulties, we will extricate them”. He requested the media to show restraint in contacting them.

Last month, Sunni rebels led by the Islamic State (IS), formerly known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), surged out of the Anbar province and seized Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, moving on to the oil refinery centre of Baiji. Thousands fled among reports of extreme atrocity. IS claims to be establishing a caliphate, or Islamic state, on the territories it controls in Iraq and Syria. The jihadists are continuing to entrench their positions in northern and western Iraq.

Meanwhile, the MEA on Tuesday said that it booked tickets for 233 Indian nationals earlier in the day. Most of the evacuees are from northern India , followed by Hyderabad, with the rest hailing from Kerala and Tamil Nadu.

Around 1,000 Indians have contacted officials to facilitate their return to India. Almost an equal number, however, want to stay back on their own accord. About 450 Indian workers contacted by the ministry refused to leave work.

Thirty-nine Indians are still in IS's captivity in Mosul; the ministry said they "remain unharmed”.

 

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