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ERR in India: Ship guards' exit visas stamped, heading for airport next

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The 14 Estonian ship guards released from prison on Nov. 28 have received the necessary stamps for their exit visas from Indian authorities, packed their belongings and will soon be headed for the airport for their flights home to Estonia, confirmed ERR correspondent Tarmo Maiberg.

"The men are at the Bureau of Immigration's Foreign Registry Office right now, and one by one they are going in and getting their stamps in exchange for their signatures," said Maiberg. "Now it's just a matter of waiting for their flights, apparently. If nothing else comes up, the men can start heading home soon."

Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs officials are also present and accompanying each ship guard in turn at the Bureau of Immigration.

According to Maiberg, the men's journey back to Estonia will be spread across multiple flights, as it wasn't possible to book tickets onto the same flight for all 14 men together. They are expected to depart India at around midnight local time.

"The boys have their stuff packed and they'll be heading for the airport soon," the ERR correspondent said. "How things will go for them at the airport is of course another matter, but let's hope for the best."

Ship guard Raigo Kustmann told ERR, that the fact that they are finally heading home has not yet hit home. "This is unbelievable," he said. "This is very good work on the part of Estonian officials."

The 14 Estonian men were among 35 crew and security personnel from the anti-piracy vessel Seaman Guard Ohio first arrested in Tamil Nadu, India on Oct. 18, 2013. The men were senteced on Jan. 11, 2016 to five years in prison for entering India with weapons, but were acquitted on Nov. 27 and released from prison on Nov. 28 of this year.

Editor: Aili Vahtla

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