M A I N   N E W S

Ships to bring back Indians from Libya
Ashok Tuteja/TNS

New Delhi, February 23
With the pro-democracy movement spreading to fresh areas in Libya, External Affairs Minister SM Krishna today said the government was preparing a contingency plan to evacuate Indian nationals stranded in the Arab nation. “One ship has already reached Egypt…it should reach Libya anytime soon,’’ he told Rajya Sabha members, who sought clarifications on his suo motu statement on the government’s plan to evacuate Indians from Libya.

With the Air India coming under sharp criticism recently for ‘overcharging’ Indians who wanted to return from Egypt in the wake of unrest there, Krishna said all 18,000 Indians stranded in Libya would be evacuated free of cost. “Nobody should have any apprehension that we will be charging fare from them,” he added.

The minister indicated that the stranded Indians would have to be brought home only by ships as most airports in Libya were closed. "One ship can accommodate around 800 to 1,000 persons…so we will have to put a number of ships into operation to bring our people back,'' he added.

The possible evacuation plan was being worked out, said the minister, adding that Libyan authorities are expected to give exit visas to Indians by tomorrow.

Official sources, meanwhile, said a number of options were being considered to bring back the Indian nationals from Libya. One option was to bring some 8,000 Indians from the Libyan capital of Tripoli and another 1,200 from Benghazi to Alexandria in Egypt by ship.

Another option being considered was to bring the stranded Indians to Tobruk or Salloum, close to the Egyptian border, and send them to Alexandria by road. From there, they could be flown to India. The sources said logistic issues connected with the evacuation, like permission from Libyan authorities, visas and medical, were being addressed expeditiously. Reinforcements have been rushed to the Indian Embassy in Tripoli to help the mission to speed up the evacuation process. Noting that Yemen and Bahrain, too, were witnessing political protests, Krishna said there were a significant number of Indians in these countries and most had gone there to earn a livelihood and were contributing to the growth and development. "We have issued travel advisories for our nationals to avoid non-essential travel to Bahrain, Yemen and Libya. We will continue to closely monitor the situation in these countries," he added.

Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao said she had spoken to Indian Ambassador to Libya M Manimekalai, who was awaiting clearance for the landing of Indian aircraft and ships in the Arab nation.

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