Relief writ large on their faces, 44 Indian nurses working in strife-torn Libya arrived here this morning from Dubai even as four others are bound for different destinations in the country.
While 44 reached Kochi by an Emirates flight, another three were bound for Delhi, CEO of Non-Resident Keralite Affairs Department (NoRKA) P Sudeep told PTI.
One nurse was bound for Mumbai. Ten nurses are expected to reach Kerala tomorrow morning, he said.
NoRKA officials were at the airport to receive the nurses, who were paid Rs 2000 as travel expenses to reach their homes.
Relatives thronged the area to welcome their dear ones. But amid the joy of homecoming many nurses are hoping the state government would extend some financial package to them.
Loans, mounting debts, no salaries for the past 3-4 months are giving them sleepless nights, they said.
Jisha George from nearby Tripunithura, who arrived here this morning, told PTI that she was working at the Tripoli Medical College (TMC) since July last year. A batch of 68 nurses had gone there along with her.
Jisha said she and many other nurses had not been paid salaries for the past 3-4 months. She was given a cheque for 4000 dinars, but could not get it encashed as the hospital management said there were no funds, she said.
There was shortage of petrol and gas and most of the time there was power cut in the hostel where some 250 nurses had been put up, said Jisha, who had left two of her young children and husband in Kerala, hoping of a better future for her family.
Recounting her journey to safety, she said they took a bus to the Libyan border from where another bus took them to Tunisia.
All praise for the Indian Ambassador in Tunisia, Jisha said the Ambassador was personally present to receive them and ensured that all of them were safe in the hotel. From Tunisia, they boarded an Emirates flight to Dubai airport yesterday and took another Emirates flight to reach Kochi.
Another nurse said they were scared of stepping out in Libya as taxi drivers used to take away their money and mobile phones threatening them with guns. Incidents of robbery and bomb blasts were common.
"There are many more nurses who are stranded in Libya and are hoping to come to Kerala after their pending salaries are paid by the hospital management," she said.
Sheena Jaison, also working in TMC, had gone on a two-year contract on July 26 last year. She said she along with some other nurses resigned last month as the situation worsened. There are 360-odd Keralite nurses in the hospital, she said.
"..Many of us have not got salaries. Nursing superintendent has said for 3-4 months there would be no salaries," she said.
"We feel it is an escape from war land. We are thankful to the state government and embassy officials."
"Most of the nurses are not keen to return to Libya. But there are financial problems of debts, loan repayments. We do not know what to do," another nurse said.
The nurses said they are expecting financial help from the government.