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  • Joy, relief as nurses return home from Iraq
    Joy, relief as nurses return home from Iraq Frontier
    Frontier on Saturday, July 5, 2014
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    A DAY after they were released by ISIS militants in Iraq, 46 Indian nurses returned home on Saturday. The special Air India flight also had on board over 100 other Indian workers, including about 70 from Kirkuk.

    The flight, which left Erbil in the early hours of Thursday, landed at the Kochi International Airport at 11:50 am, where the nurses were received by Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy. The plane then headed to Hyderabad, where some of the workers disembarked, before finally reaching New Delhi.

    An emotional and warm welcome awaited the nurses at the Kochi airport as they reunited with their families. After speedy immigration clearance at special counters, they came out carrying small bags and flowers given to them by Chandy. Their waiting relatives shed tears of happiness as they hugged them.

    The nurses, most of them in their 20s, were stranded in Iraq after their hospital in Tikrit was taken over by ISIS militants on June 12. They were forced to move to Mosul on Thursday, before finally being released yesterday.

    Their happiness, however, was clouded by a feeling of despair as many of them had not received their salaries for the last few months. Thirty-six of the nurses who joined the Tikrit Teaching Hospital in February this year were yet to receive any salary. The others, who joined the hospital in August last year, had not been paid for the last two months.

    “We have pleaded with the Indian Embassy to negotiate with the Iraq government to pay our salary arrears… We did not even have money to recharge our mobile phones,” said Lashmol Jacob, a nurse.
    All of them vowed never to return to Iraq. Among the nurses were two siblings from a family in Kottayam which has another daughter working as a nurse in Bagdad.

    Almost all the nurses narrated the same story: they completed their general nursing diploma in low-cost institutes in other states, worked in Delhi for a year or two before going to Iraq, for which they had to shell out Rs 1.5-2 lakh. The all belong to economically backward families living in rural areas of Kerala.

    Within half-an-hour, the nurses were taken to their homes in Kottayam, Idukki, Pathanamthitta and Kannur districts. The state government had arranged special vehicles for their transport.

    Chandy attributed their safe return to an orchestrated effort by the state and central governments. He said the issue of helping the nurses would be addressed later.

    Meanwhile, outside the airport, a representative of a hospital group waiting with notices offering jobs in Nepal, Egypt and UAE.
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