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India Tries Evacuating Citizens in Yemen

By Hari Kumar And Ellen Barry, NY Times, April 5, 2015

NEW DELHI–India used small boats this weekend to ferry some of its citizens to a naval destroyer anchored near Aden, Yemen, as an operation to evacuate about 4,000 Indians from Yemen’s war zone entered a difficult phase.

The Indian ship was not able to dock in Aden because of shelling, so the small boats carried people in groups of about 30, said Syed Akbaruddin, the spokesman for India’s External Affairs Ministry. About 2,000 Indians have now been transported out of Yemen, but the deteriorating conditions there mean that no more evacuations from Aden will be possible, he said.

“It’s been a hard task, and as the situation worsens, the time available to us lessens,” he said. “Difficult situations now are becoming more difficult as time passes.”

Several thousand Indian women work as nurses in Yemen, and many have been reluctant to leave, despite the intensifying conflict, because their families are so heavily dependent on their remittances.

Manju James, 30, who returned from Sana, Yemen’s capital, on Thursday, said her family had taken out loans of about $4,000 to pay for her training and job placement in Yemen, where she earns $400 a month, nearly four times what she earned in India. Of that, she sends $350 home every month, and she is still repaying the loans.

“I wanted to stay, but so much bombing was taking place every day,” Ms. James said in a telephone interview from the southern state of Kerala, where her family lives. “I would like to go back as soon as the fighting stops, because I need to earn more money for my family.”

She added, “If fighting doesn’t stop in Yemen, maybe I will find another country for work.”

Iranian-backed Shiite Houthi fighters seized Sana in January and forced President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi to retreat to the southern port of Aden. Houthi forces recently advanced to Aden, despite a Saudi Arabian-led air bombing campaign intended to stop them.

Last week, Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India spoke to King Salman of Saudi Arabia, whose forces essentially control Yemeni airspace, to seek his assistance in the evacuation.

Most of the remaining 2,000 Indians are in Sana, which is under control of the Houthi fighters. Four Air India flights carrying Indian citizens took off from the city on Saturday and Sunday, carrying a total of 488 people, according to Indian news reports.

Lethika Rajan, 25, who works at a public hospital in Sana, said that she had heard “gunshots and loud noise of bombings all the time,” and that she had been urging her employers to return her passport so she could leave. Her employers complied only after the Indian Embassy intervened on her behalf. Ms. Rajan is currently on a list of people awaiting evacuation.

India has carried out several large evacuations of its citizens living abroad in recent years–from Ukraine, Iraq and Libya, among others–but has not used naval warships for any of the operations since the 2006 war in Lebanon, northern Israel and the Golan Heights.

In Yemen, as in other Persian Gulf states that employ many Indians, the task is complicated by regulations that require foreign citizens to have government authorization before they leave.

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India pulls out 1,200 nationals from Yemen amidst heavy shelling

India pulls out 1,200 nationals from Yemen amidst heavy shelling

New Delhi: Amidst heavy shelling in Aden, India took great caution in evacuating 439 of its nationals to the naval ship INS Mumbai anchored off the coast –- ferrying the people in small batches by boat to the ship. On Saturday, over 1,200 Indians were evacuated from Yemen by air and by sea, adding to the around 1,000 Indians who have arrived back in India so far, the government said.


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