India sets to repatriate citizens from abroad

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India has kick started a “massive” operation calling up passenger jets and naval ships in the country to bring back some of the hundreds of thousands of nationals stranded abroad due to coronavirus restrictions, the government said.

India barred all inbound international flights in late March as it activated one of the world’s strictest virus lockdowns, leaving vast numbers of workers and students stranded.

A defence spokesman told AFP on Tuesday that two ships were steaming towards the Maldives and another to the United Arab Emirates — home to a 3.3-million-strong Indian community, who make up around 30 percent of the Gulf state’s population.

Indian Authorities

A government statement released said repatriation flights would start bringing her citizens home from Thursday, and that Indian embassies and high commissions were preparing lists of “distressed Indian citizens”.
However, to the annoyance of some of those abroad, the evacuees will have to pay for their passage, the statement said, and spend 14 days in quarantine on arrival.

READ ALSO: NCDC Records 245 New Cases Of COVID-19, Total Infections Now 2802

“COVID test would be done after 14 days and further action would be taken according to health protocols,” it added.

The consulate in Dubai said that it alone had received almost 200,000 applications, appealing on Twitter for “patience and cooperation” as India undertakes the “massive task” of repatriation.

The oil-rich Gulf is reliant on the cheap labour of millions of foreigners — mostly from India, Pakistan, Nepal and Sri Lanka — many of whom live in squalid camps far from the region’s showy skyscrapers and malls.

However, COVID-19 and the devastating economic impact of the pandemic has left many employees sick and others unemployed, unpaid and at the mercy of sometimes unscrupulous employers.











It has also chopped off a large gully in the Indian economy, with remittances from its workers abroad which according to the World Bank is totalling almost $80 billion in 2018.

‘Please help me’
The civil aviation ministry recently reported that, around 14,800 people will be taken back on 64 flights from 12 countries, with the first leaving UAE and Qatar on Thursday.

Other flights will leave Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines, as well as London in the United Kingdom and San Francisco, New York, Chicago and Washington in the US.

The flights will bring an average of 2,000 people back to various Indian destinations every day for a week, according to the foreign ministry.

So far some 20,000 Indians in the US have signed up for the evacuations, The Times of India reported.

But some Indians said they would not be able to pay for their evacuations and pleaded with the government for help.

“I request govt to take all of us at no charge during this crisis situation as we are all struggling here due to prolonged lockdown,” tourist Sadhana Srivastava tweeted from Dubai.

“I’m homeless now after I lost my job in March, please take me to India or else I will be in a big trouble here in Dubai, please help me sir,” Saroj K Swain wrote on Twitter.

The UAE has been the most vocal among Gulf countries in demanding governments take workers back, with almost 23,000 having left as of April 20.

But New Delhi had until now refused to cooperate, balking at the logistical and safety nightmare of repatriating and quarantining returning citizens.

India had earlier evacuated some 2,500 Indians from China, Japan, Iran and Italy before banning international and domestic travel.

It was the biggest single-day jump with 3,900 new infections and 195 deaths in the last 24 hours.

India has the second largest population in the world with 1.35 billion people. The country has however recorded over 46,000 cases since its outbreak.

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