India used small boats on the 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, Indian Minstry of External Affairs spokesman Syed Akbaruddin said. About 2,000 Indians have 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’a, Yemen’s capital, on Thursday, said her family had taken out loans of about US$4,000 to pay for her training and job placement in Yemen, where she earns US$400 a month, nearly four times what she earned in India.
Of that, she sends US$350 home every month, and she is still repaying the loans.
“I wanted to stay, but so much bombing was taking place every day,” James said in a telephone interview from Kerala State, 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. If fighting doesn’t stop in Yemen, maybe I will find another country for work.”
Iranian-backed Shiite Houthi fighters seized Sana’a in January and forced Yemeni President Abd 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, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi 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’a, 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’a, 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. Rajan is currently on a list of people awaiting evacuation.
“Now I want to get back home as soon as possible,” she said.
Like many of her compatriots in Yemen, she was conflicted about leaving behind her monthly salary of US$550 because her family was still paying back loans they had taken out to send her abroad.
Her husband is an agricultural day laborer, and in India she earned a salary of about US$80 a month.
She said she was hoping to make enough money to build a house for her family.
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