Indians returning to conflict-ridden countries worry government

Indians returning to conflict-ridden countries worry government

The government is worried over return of Indians to the conflict zones of West Asia and North Africa, even as efforts are on to secure release of the two Indians kidnapped in Libya last Wednesday and 39 others abducted in Iraq a year ago.

Though the government evacuated a large number of Indians from Libya, Iraq and Yemen in the past years, some of them have returned, even as instability continues in the conflict-hit countries. “Many Indian nurses we evacuated from Yemen are going back. That is a cause for worry,” External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj posted on Twitter. “Situation not normal and we do not have Embassy there (Yemen),” she added.  New Delhi is worried about its limited capability to help citizens in the conflict zones in the event of a crisis as neither the governments of those countries are in full control, nor does India has adequate manpower in its missions to respond to any eventuality. Deteriorating security situation prompted New Delhi to shut its embassy in Sana’a and pull out most of its diplomats from Tripoli.

The government deployed warships, merchant vessels and planes to evacuate altogether 4,741 Indians from Yemen in April after the conflict in the Southwest Asian country reached a flashpoint and Saudi Arabia started airstrikes to support forces and militias loyal to President Hadi in their fight against rebel Houthis.  “Operation Rahat”, launched by New Delhi, was lauded around the world as Air India aircraft and warships of Indian Navy also helped evacuate over 950 foreigners from the conflict zones of Yemen. Soon after the evacuation, the Embassy of India in the capital of Yemen was shut down in view of the deteriorating security situation.

According to MEA officials, the Centre subsequently requested the State governments to provide “all necessary assistance to rehabilitate the returnees and ensure their well-being under the existing State or Central government schemes, for which they would be found otherwise eligible on priority basis”. Pursuit of livelihood, however, has prompted some of the evacuees to return to Yemen even as the situation in the West Asian country remained volatile. The MEA has, therefore, issued a fresh travel advisory this week.

“The security situation in Yemen continues to be fragile. The United Nations has raised the humanitarian crisis level of Yemen to the highest rung,” noted the MEA. “Shortages of food items, cooking gas, diesel, petrol etc continue and water and electricity supply are also severely affected. Conflict and bombings still continue and the Government of India has already issued an Advisory for avoiding travel to Yemen for its nationals,” it added.

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