Wednesday, August 10, 2022

India to repatriate nearly 15,000 stranded citizens, excluding OCI holders

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, over 3 lakh people have registered with Indian missions in the Gulf region to be repatriated home, according to official sources. However, not everyone but only “those with compelling grounds to return will be brought back,” sources involved in this exercise told ANI on Tuesday.

The government today said it will operate the first 64 repatriation flights from May 7 to bring back about 15,000 Indian nationals from abroad over a period of one week, in one of its biggest-ever evacuation exercises.

Indian missions on the ground will do due diligence and decide on who with “compelling reasons” can fly back to India. Those who fit the parameters include people facing deportation, migrant workers who have been laid off, short-term visa holders, people with medical emergencies, pregnant women, elderly persons, a person who has lost a near one, tourists, and students whose colleges and hostels are shut.

Sources said repatriation will only be available for Indian citizens and Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) cardholders, green card holders, or any foreign nationals will be brought back.

“However, whenever our flights will go from here to bring back our stranded citizens from respective countries, we will be allowing OCI or green card holders or other foreign nationals of that country who want to go. We will be liberal with people going out only if their countries are open to receive them,” sources said.

For a seamless flow of the repatriation process, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) has formed a coordination committee. It has appointed one coordinator per state to manage the repatriation process of Indian citizens.

The committee includes senior joint secretary /additional secretary rank officials from MEA. Seventeen coordinators have been appointed. Starting from May 7, 64 flights will go to 12 countries including UAE, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, Maldives, Singapore and the US. Naval ships will be sent to the Maldives, which has several Indians working there.

“More than 10000 Indians have tested positive in Gulf countries, 84 have died till now,” sources said. Sources also indicated that in the coming days more countries will be included in the repatriation operation titled ‘Vande Bharat Mission’.

The Prime Minister’s office and particularly cabinet secretary, external affairs minister and foreign secretary are personally giving direction to this huge repatriation process undertaken by India, according to sources.

Ministry of External Affairs will also be sharing the data of the skills of the workers with their respective states so that they can be rehabilitated with the help of state governments and the Ministry of Skill Development.

Unscheduled commercial flights will be involved in the entire repatriation process and the cost of travel has to be borne by passengers. Only asymptomatic passengers will board and two-week institutional quarantine will be implemented for all who are flown back from foreign countries.

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