New Delhi: India is all set to begin from May 7 repatriation of its citizens who have been stranded abroad amidst the Covid-19 pandemic.
The magnitude of the exercise can be gauged by the sheer numbers in phase 1 alone. The Indian Embassy in the UAE had opened up registrations last week and the load of the people trying to log in resulted in the website crashing temporarily.
Now, the embassy officially says it has almost 2 lakh registrations. It has requested people to be patient and not visit the embassy in order to maintain social distancing as they make arrangements for their return.
Two flights will leave from Abu Dhabi to Kochi and Dubai to Kozhikode on May 7. Passengers will be screened for symptoms and only those who are asymptomatic will be allowed to board the flights. Those who come back will be kept in institutional quarantine centres arranged by the state government. It has already been clarified that facilities at the quarantine will have a cost that has to be borne by individuals.
The UAE had sounded a warning, asking various countries, including India, to repatriate its citizens who wished to return. They had categorically said UAE will review labour relations with countries that fail to do so to the extent that they could curtail labour quota for such countries in future. Under these circumstances, repatriation from UAE gained priority in the Gulf region.
The various missions have also been in touch with local authorities as far as visa extension issues are concerned, spokesperson for Ministry of External Affairs Anurag Srivastava had said in his briefing last week.
Kuwait has extended amnesty of those categorised as illegal immigrants, some like those whose visas have expired and they had overstayed till April 30. On May 1, Ambassador to India Jassen Al-Najem told MEA that Kuwait is willing to make arrangements for the return of such people free of cost to India. India is yet to officially respond to this offer.
It is expected that because of the large number of Indians who need to be brought back from the Gulf region, the repatriations will take place both via air and sea.
A naval ship has already started off for Maldives. The first batch of 200 people will sail from Male to Kochi later this week. It will be an almost 48-hour journey by sea and the costs will be intimated to the passengers.
Most Indian embassies have been in the process of collating data of stranded Indians since the lockdown came into effect, a month-and-a-half ago. But since the formal process was initiated two weeks ago, the process has been streamlined further.
Passengers shortlisted in various batches will be formally intimated of details via emails and calls. Priority will be given to the more vulnerable groups like pregnant women, old people, citizens with medical needs, children and those whose contracts and visas have expired.