New Delhi :  External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Wednesday said that Indians held as captives by terrorists in Iraq are alive and assured that the government is making all efforts to bring them back. About 40 Indians from Punjab are believed to be held as captives in Iraq since last year. One of them who claimed to have escaped from there had earlier made a claim that the others might have been killed.

 During the Question Hour in the Lok Sabha, Swaraj said that if they were stranded, the government would have brought them long back but they are in the captivity of terrorists.

 “I completely don’t believe that those people are dead … If we believed that boy’s version then I would have told this House that all are dead. But we don’t believe the boy’s claim and that is why we are searching for the people,” she said.

 Referring to a recent meeting in which foreign ministers from Arab countries and 15 ministers participated, Swaraj said the heads of two major nations told me that the Indians were alive.

 The Minister came in for praise from some members in the House for the handling of problems faced by Indians abroad, including rescuing them and ensuring their return home. BJD and AAP members appreciated Swaraj for her efforts, with BJD Baijayant Panda saying the response from the Ministry has been “outstanding” and there has been a dramatic improvement in this regard.

 Meanwhile, Swaraj said there has been no “big exodus” of Indians from foreign countries in the wake of steep fall in crude oil prices which has adversely affected job prospects.

 She was responding to a query on what action the government plans to take as many companies overseas were sending back Indians amid decline in oil prices, a matter of concern to Kerala that has a large number of NRIs.

This is a future problem and the government is aware about it, Swaraj said.  Emphasising that welfare of Indians living abroad was a priority for the government, Swaraj said it is working from all sides to address problems faced by them.

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