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16 Indians On their way back home from Iraq

All Indian Nurses Safe in Hospital in Tikrit

PM Chairs high level meeting to formulate steps to repatriate stranded Indians

By TN Ashok   Diplomatic Editor

New Delhi, June 20, 2014:  Sixteen of the 120 Indians stranded in the conflict zones in Iraq have been successfully evacuated and are on a flight back home even as the Indian government confirmed that one of the 40 construction workers abducted in Mosul had escaped from captivity and the 46 nurses in Tikrit were absolutely safe without any hindrance from anybody in the hospital where they were doing their duties.

Eight of the Indian nationals working in Iraq’s biggest refinery Baiji – (claimed to have been taken by the ISIS militants from nationalist forces) — had been successfully evacuated to Baghdad where they had boarded a flight back home, Syed Akbaruddin, spokesman of the Ministry of External Affairs told newsmen during his daily update on the situation in strife torn Iraq.

Eight more Indian nationals working with Lanco, an Andhra Pradesh based power developer, on a project in Anbar had been evacuated safety to Baghdad and put on a flight back to India, the spokesman said.

The spokesman confirmed that one of the 40 construction workers abducted by the ISIS militants in Mosul had escaped from captivity successfully and was in touch with Indian embassy officials in Baghdad. However, it was not clear where he had escaped to and how he managed to escape, he said adding the escapee had also not disclosed his whereabouts.

The Safety and security of Indian nationals stranded in strife torn Iraq had now become the matter of highest priority of the Indian government and accordingly Prime Minister Narendra Modi today held a high level meeting of ministers and officials to review the situation and to chart out a road map for bringing home all the stranded Indians in the conflict zone safely back home.

Besides Modi, the Home Minister Raj Nath Singh, the External Affairs Minister Ms Sushma Swaraj, Defence Minister Arun Jaiteley, National Security Advisor Ajit Doval , Cabinet Secretary Ajit Seth, Foreign Secretary Ms Sujata Singh, the chiefs of all the intelligence wings of the governments’ including RAW, IB and CBI attended the meeting.

On the safety and security of the 40 construction workers held captive by ISIS militants as also others stranded elsewhere in conflict zones in Iraq, the MEA spokesman said, “We are knocking on all doors for a quick solution to the problem. The front door, the back door and even trap doors”, he said adding that knocking on doors was not restricted to Iraq but also boundaries beyond the west Asian nation.

“We will let you know when the knocks on the doors are answered and it fructifies into a solution”, he said adding “No option is off the table”.

The spokesman said that the External Affairs Minister was reviewing the situation on a daily basis after a meeting with top officials of the foreign office which included the foreign secretary Ms Sujata Singh and the Secretary East Anil Wadhwa who is dealing with the situation and the authorities in Iraq and Indian embassy there directly.

Two important decisions were taken as a result of this meeting today:

  1. All Indians stranded in Iraq and who are indigent and are cashless will be assisted from out of the Indian Community Welfare Fund constituted by the embassy in Baghdad to fly them safely back home. Also, no Indian will suffer for want of documentation to fly back home.

  2. India has asked Iraq government to liberalise its VISA regime to ensure that any of the stranded Indians in the strife torn country was allowed to exit the country from any of its land borders or port other than the port from which he or she had entered the country.

    India is confident that the Iraqi government would heed to its request and allow Indian nationals to exit from any port or land border of the country, the spokesman said pointing out that Iraq’s VISA regime and formalities does not allow any foreign national to exit the country from any point other than the port of entry.

    The spokesman said that India had also suspended all immigration clearances to Iraq which meant that no Indian could travel to that country now for a month pending an end to the conflict there.

It may be recalled that the Ministry of External Affairs had also issued a travel advisory to all Indian nationals not to travel to Iraq in view of the tense security situation there.

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