The 44 Malayali nurses stranded at a hospital in Tikrit are safe, amid the raging conflict between rebels and security forces in Iraq, Minister for Non-Resident Keralite Affairs K.C. Joseph informed the Assembly on Tuesday.

Replying to a submission by Anwar Sadath, he said 36 of the 44 nurses were willing to return while eight had informed the Indian Embassy that they were waiting for their salary arrears to be cleared. “Red Crescent volunteers who contacted the nurses had found them safely ensconced in the hospital.”

Mr. Joseph said the Malayalis were unable to travel to the airport 140 km away because of continuous shelling along the route. “The State government is constantly in touch with the Ministry of External Affairs and the Indian Embassy in Iraq ever since the crisis broke out. We have been informed that the Iraqi government is not in control of the conflict zones.”

The Minister said the Indian Ambassador had promised to send back the Malayali nurses as soon the route to the airport was clear. He added that a 24-hour helpdesk had been set up at the NORKA office in Thiruvananthapuram to provide information about the Malayalis stranded in Iraq.

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