KOCHI: While the Indian Embassy in Libya is preparing to evacuate the first batch of 118 nurses from strife-torn Tripoli, seven construction workers from Kerala stare at uncertainty over their safe return home.
Though Embassy officials have offered to take them out of the Libyan capital to neighbouring Tunisia in a bus, they put the onus of flying home from there on their employer, Alfawm Damm Builders & Construction Pvt Ltd. This when the Embassy is arranging a special flight to fly out the nurses from Tunisia to Kerala.
‘’The company has been deducting an amount from our salary for the flight tickets, but now they are saying they don’t have the money for our tickets. An embassy official told us that we can travel to Tunisia as soon as we take care of the flight tickets. But we don’t know how to go about it if the company is not cooperating,’’ Kannur native Chendavalappil Abhilash, one of the workers trapped there, told Express over the phone. He said they have been living in constant fear ever since the militant violence spiralled out of control on June 13. “Things have gone from bad to worse here in the last two weeks. The other day (Wednesday), we heard from TV that five Philippine nurses were abducted by the militants and three of them were beheaded for being Christians,’’ Abhilash said.
“We are scared to sleep. We don’t know when it is safe to go out...We hear the sounds of gunfires and blasts all the time,’’ he said.
Besides Abhilash, Babu Sukumaran and T Mathew from Alappuzha, Rajesh Kumar, K A Shaji and Anilkumar Narayanan from Pathanamthitta, and Shihab from Malappuram are also stuck in the apartment in Ghot Alshaal. Another worker from Shivaganga in Tamil Nadu, Karuppayya Muthu, is also holed up with them.
Four of these eight workers, including Abhilash, were supposed to leave the country on June 16, but that was when the militants destroyed the international airport there. “Since then, we have been holed up in the apartment,’’ he said. Abhilash said Kannur MP P K Sreemathi and Kottayam MP Jose K Mani had reached out to them over the phone.
Sreemathi said she had forwarded a memorandum seeking help for them to the Chief Minister, the Indian Embassy and the Non-resident Kerala Affairs (Norka) Department. “’I’ve got no response from them yet,’’ she said. Norka CEO P Sudeep said his office was preparing a list of people stranded in Libya and that he did not know if the seven construction workers from the state were in the list.