Kochi: Jovina George, stands with her young daughter in her arms at the Kochi International Airport. She has returned to Kerala after a year in Libya.
Ms George, 30, is among 44 nurses from Kerala who were working at different hospitals in Libya and landed at the Kochi airport this morning on a fight via Dubai. They were moved from Tripoli to Tunisia two days ago. (Read: Bring Back Nurses Stranded in Libya, Kerala Chief Minister Tells Foreign Minister)
"I returned only because I wanted to live. If I could afford to think only about money, I would have stayed there," Jovina told NDTV.
Another 43 Kerala nurses are now waiting at the Tunisian border to fly home; the date for their return has not been finalized, said state government officials. (Back Home, Kerala Nurses Fear Loan Sharks More Than ISIS)
Fighting between rival militias in Tripoli over the past three weeks and clashes between Islamists and the army in the eastern city of Benghazi have prompted several countries to evacuate citizens.
The Kerala government says totally 322 nurses working in Libya have asked for help in making the journey home. They are being assisted by Roots-Norka, the state agency that looks after the welfare of Keralite working abroad. (Read: Grit And Determination of 46 Nurses Helped: Oommen Chandy)
"The others will be brought back from Banghazi via Malta because the road to Tunisia is dangerous now with the escalating tension. Many Indians are registering with us on a daily basis," said P Sudeep, the CEO of Norka.
Many of those who are now heading home had taken substantial loans to travel and work in Libya.
Jince and Princy Mathew, who married a year ago, moved to Libya to work as nurses. Princy is pregnant with their first child. They had not been paid their salaries for four months - an amount that adds upto nearly six lakhs. Leaving Libya without that was a decision that was not reached early. They have loans to pay off, parents to support, and a baby on the way.
To minimize the financial strain on people like them, the state government has been urging business leaders to offer jobs to the returnees. Banks are also being asked to waive the interest on loans.
"It was a very difficult situation, we haven't even been able to get back what we spent to go there," said Princy.