India to begin evacuation of its citizens from Libya

New Delhi, Feb 24 (PTI) Government today decided toimmediately commence evacuation of Indians from Libya by seaand air in view of the "sharp and unprecedented deterioration"in the situation in the African nation which is witnessinganti-government protests that have claimed 300 lives so far.

"Evacuation is being arranged by sea and air.

Government has chartered a passenger ferry with capacity toseat 1200 persons for this purpose. The ship, "Scotia Prince",is already in Egypt and readying for sail to Benghazi whichwill be the initial focus of the evacuation operations," theMinistry of External Affairs said in a statement here.

There are about 18,000 Indians in that country withmajority of them living in Tripoli which is one of theworst-affected cities due to the protests.

"Let me assure the nation that all Indians are safeand all those Indians who are willing to be evacuated will beevacuated safely and without any expenditure incurred bythem," External Affairs Minister S M Krishna said.

He said all possible arrangements were being made toevacuate Indians who are willing to get out of Libya, whichhas been rocked by protests against the Gaddafi regime.

MEA personnel and medical team will be on board toassist the evacuees, the statement said.

"SCOTIA PRINCE is expected to reach Benghazi byFebruary 27 and bring back at least 1200 persons to Alexandria(Egypt) by March 1. They would be flown home from Alexandriathereafter, by special Air India flights, which are beingarranged," it said.

In Tripoli, the focus will be on air evacuation, itsaid, adding that aircraft are on stand by for this purpose asLibyan landing clearance is awaited and should be receivedsoon.

"Preparations are also in hand for evacuation of ournationals from cities in the interior where air access ispossible subject to Libyan clearance," the ministry said.

Indian companies, many of whom are based in Libya fordecades, have also offered to work with the Indian Embassy inTripoli in facilitating evacuation, he said.

MEA is also coordinating closely with other Ministriesincluding Defence, Overseas Indian Affairs and Shipping inmaking evacuation arrangements.

Round-the-clock situation rooms in MEA and the IndianMission in Tripoli are functioning smoothly and addressingqueries from families of our citizens in Libya.

"Our Embassies in Egypt and Tunisia are also alert tothe situation and extending all assistance," the ministrysaid.

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