India to undertake largest repatriation mission to bring back its citizens stranded abroad due to COVID-19 pandemic

Written By: Sidhant Sibal WION
New Delhi Published: May 04, 2020, 09:44 PM(IST)

INS Jalashwa Indian Navy's largest Amphibious platform thanking COVID warriors on Sunday. It is likely on the evacuation mission. Photograph:( WION )

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The largest-ever evacuation carried out by India was the 1990 airlift of Indians from Kuwait during the Gulf War in which 170,000 Indian expatriates were from the west Asian country.

Independent India's largest repatriation mission to bring back its citizens stranded abroad due to COVID-19 pandemic is all set to begin with New Delhi giving the formal green signal. India will be evacuating 1,92,000 people in the first phase of the evacuation starting May 7th with the focus on the Gulf. 

UAE will be the first country from were India will start the evacuation with the first two Air India flights landing in Kerala on May 7th. One flight will fly from Abu Dhabi to Kochi and another from Dubai to Kozhikode on the same day. A number of blue-collared Indians are stranded in the country who have registered themselves for evacuation. 

India's envoy to UAE Pavan Kapoor speaking exclusively to WION said, "I am glad that we are starting this process of repatriation for those who urgently need to return to India. We look forward to working closely with the UAE authorities to make this process as smooth and efficient as we can."

The largest-ever evacuation carried out by India was the 1990 airlift of Indians from Kuwait during the Gulf War in which 170,000 Indian expatriates were from the west Asian country.

In the first phase itself, India will start evacuation of its citizens from the neighbourhood with Maldives and Bangladesh being the focus. On 8th May, 700 Indians will be evacuated from Male to Kochi by Indian Naval ship.

In the second phase, India will start evacuation of its citizens from Iran, USA, UK and Malaysia. Indian missions across the world are already preparing a list of distressed Indian citizens.

Sources told WION, "Data collection ongoing in most missions, with some looking at dates for evacuation and making all necessary arrangements accordingly."

Several missions have opened registration for the stranded Indians.

Around 11,000 stranded Indians have registered with Indian mission in Moscow, 1200  in New Zealand, 390 Indian nationals have so far registered with High Commission of Nairobi, 2000 at India's mission in Canada and five Indians in Somalia have also registered so that they can get back home.

Only asymptomatic passengers would be allowed to travel and Standard Operating Protocol (SOP) for the evacuation had been prepared in this regard.

"State Governments are being advised to make arrangements, including for testing, quarantine and onward movement of the returning Indians in their respective States.", MHA in a statement said.

The evacuation will only be on "compelling grounds" and will be done via planes and naval ships on payment basis and non-scheduled commercial flights would be arranged for air travel. During the evacuation, all health protocols like social distancing norms will have to be followed.

INS Jalashwa, Indian Navy's largest Amphibious platform (Landing Platform Dock). is already at sea. It is likely to be sent for evacuation. It can carry 1000 troops. With the current social distancing, norms it can carry 500-700 people. 2 to 3 Landing Ship Tanks (LST) are likely to be deployed. India has 2 class of LST-- Magar class and Shardul.

The evacuees after reaching the destination would have to register on the Indian government's Aarogya Setu app which has been developed to alert about COVID-19 crisis and alerts regarding it. After being medically screened, they will be quarantined for 14 days in a hospital or an institutional quarantine on payment-basis by the State governments which will be followed by COVID test at the end of the given period.

Earlier this year, India brought back approximately 2500 of its citizens and 48 foreign nationals from China, Japan, Iran and Italy.

2015 Operation Raahat saw India bringing back around 4600 of its citizens while Operation Sankat Mochan of 2016 saw India bringing back 600 of its nationals from South Sudan. 2011 Operation Safe Homecoming to bring back Indians from war-torn Libya saw 15000 Indian nationals being brought back.

The first decade of the century saw Operation Sukoon in which Indian Navy got back 1764 Indians and was the largest evacuation operations conducted by the Navy since World War II.

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