Abducted Indians safe, in touch

Govt. to pay for tickets from Iraq

June 21, 2014 02:07 am | Updated November 17, 2021 03:39 am IST - NEW DELHI

Patiala : Family members of the lndians trapped in Iraq showing their photographs at a village near Devigarh in Patiala district on Friday. PTI Photo (PTI6_20_2014_000195A)

Patiala : Family members of the lndians trapped in Iraq showing their photographs at a village near Devigarh in Patiala district on Friday. PTI Photo (PTI6_20_2014_000195A)

One of the abducted Indian nationals who escaped from his captors in Mosul in Iraq has confirmed that the group of construction workers is “safe” and in touch with officials of the Indian Embassy in Baghdad, the External Affairs Ministry said on Friday.

The man, who was able to break free from his captors in the city controlled by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, is “having extensive briefing sessions” with Indian and Iraqi officials on the location and condition of those still in captivity, sources told The Hindu .

Ministry spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin said the government had moved 16 Indian workers out of the ISIS-controlled areas.

While eight of these workers were from the northern city of Baiji — where a fierce battle rages between ISIS rebels and Iraqi government forces — another eight were workers from the Lanco power project in the Sunni-dominated western province of Al-Anbar. They are all on their way back from Baghdad now. Prime Minister Narendra Modi chaired a meeting of Ministers and key officials on Friday, while India put a moratorium on all emigration clearances to Iraq for a month, as the government stepped up efforts to bring stranded Indians back to safety. Home Minister Rajnath Singh, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, Cabinet Secretary Ajit Seth, National Security Adviser Ajit Doval, AND Secretary (East) in the External Affairs Ministry Anil Wadhwa participated.

Govt. to pay for tickets from Iraq

A review meeting convened by External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Friday morning decided that India would assist all its nationals in Iraq who desired to return but were unable to pay for their tickets.

The assistance would be extended through the Indian Community Welfare Fund in Iraq — set up by the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs for the welfare of Indian workers in distress in foreign countries.

The Fund has been operational at Indian missions in 17 emigration clearance required (ECR) countries — UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman, Kuwait, Bahrain, Malaysia, Libya, Jordan, Yemen, Sudan, Afghanistan, Indonesia, Syria, Lebanon, Thailand, and Iraq — since January 2009.

Repatriation issues

The government was also working with the Iraqi authorities to resolve repatriation issues arising out of the Iraqi visa regime which mandates entry and exit of foreign nationals through the same ports.

“This has caused concern to some of our nationals who entered Iraq through certain ports of entry and would like to leave through other ports … We have taken this up with the Iraqi authorities and they are amenable to our request … We hope this issue will be resolved within a day,” External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin said.

India instructed all its missions in the region to work with their respective host governments to ensure smooth passage of Indians stranded in Iraq through these countries.

The Indian government “remained in constant touch” with the 46 nurses from Kerala trapped at the general hospital in the north-western city of Tikrit.

“Our officials have talked to them … the electricity and food arrangements [were in place] … they felt the situation was quiet … nobody had intruded into the hospital,” Mr. Akbaruddin said.

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