New Delhi: Amid criticism of slow pace of evacuation efforts, the UPA government has assured that maximum Indian nationals would be evacuated from violence-hit Libya by March 10.

According to Minister of State for External Affairs Parneet Kaur, by the end of the day (Friday), 9,209 Indian nationals would have been evacuated out of Libya.

Following the concerns raised in the Rajya Sabha over the delay in evacuation of Indian nations, Parneet said that the safety of Indians was the topmost priority of government and assured to wrap up the entire exercise within a week.

“We expect to complete the exercise of evacuating all those desirous of leaving Libya by March 10,” Kaur said, providing an update to the Parliament on multi-pronged efforts by the government entitled 'Operation Safe Homecoming’. However, some Indian nationals have opted to stay on Libya.

A passenger ship, Scotia Prince, has ferried 1,188 Indians from Benghazi to Alexandria in Egypt from where they arrived in Mumbai and Delhi by special flights till Friday.
“Another passenger ship, Red Star One, is also on its way to Misurata and Sirte to ferry Indians to Malta from where special flights are being arranged out of Valletta to bring them back,” she said.

Two ships of the Indian Navy - INS Jalashwa and INS Mysore – were expected to be in the region by March 8 to assist in the evacuation operations of any Indians that were still in the coastal towns of Libya, Kaur said.

Besides, Air India has been operating three flights a day to evacuate stranded Indians.
Kaur also informed the Parliament that an Indian Air Force IL-76 aircraft had been stationed in Cairo to undertake possible evacuation operations from Libya. A second IL-76 aircraft was also on alert to be dispatched as and when the need arose, she said.

Meanwhile, around 1,059 Indians on Friday returned from Libya in three chartered flights of Egypt Air, and one special flight of Air India even as the pace of evacuation slowed down a little due to shortage of staff and logistic equipment at Tripoli airport.

Air India flight (AI-160), an Airbus 330, landed at IGI airport at 04.40 am with 255 passengers while 804 evacuees reached Mumbai by three chartered flights of Egypt Air,
airport officials said.

"A total of 804 passengers, 268 each, in three chartered flights have reached Mumbai airport. The fourth flight, with 268 passengers, is yet to arrive," a Mumbai International
Airport Limited spokesperson said.

The first chartered aircraft landed at Chhatrapati Shivaji International airport at 00.30 am, followed by another at 03.30 am. The third flight landed at 06.20 pm and the last one was expected at 08.30 pm.

"Three of the four Egypt Air’s chartered flights have already arrived here with the evacuees, the last one is expected to land around 08.30 pm but it has not yet arrived," the spokesperson said.

Till Friday, the national carrier has brought back a total of 3,517 Indians from Libya.

In a related development, private carriers, Jet Airways and Kingfisher, which were to fly from Mumbai and Delhi to Djerba in Tunisia and Alexandria in Egypt, respectively, said they would now operate flights to Malta.