India used small boats this 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, said Syed Akbaruddin, the spokesman for India’s External Affairs Ministry. About 2,000 Indians have now 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 depend on their remittances.
Manju James, 30, who returned from Sanaa, Yemen’s capital, on Thursday, said her family had taken out loans of about $4,000 to pay for her training and job placement in Yemen, where she earns $400 a month, nearly four times what she earned in India. Of that, she sends $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 the southern state of Kerala, 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.”
Iranian-backed Shiite Houthi fighters seized Sanaa in January and forced President Abdu 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, Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India 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 Sanaa, 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 488 people, according to Indian news reports.In Yemen, as in other Persian Gulf states, evacuation is complicated by regulations that require foreign citizens to have government authorization before they leave.