India's consul general in Dubai Vipul. Photograph:( WION )
250,000 Indians in UAE have registered for repatriation.
India's consul general in Dubai Vipul has said that the ongoing repatriation is going "very well and smoothly" as many flights from the city land in India. Speaking exclusively to our diplomatic correspondent Sidhant Sibal from Dubai, Vipul lauded the UAE authorities saying that have been "very helpful and cooperative." 250,000 Indians in UAE have registered for repatriation, the maximum anywhere in the world with a large number of flights originating from Dubai making the task much more complex in the West Asian country which hosts maximum numbers of Indians anywhere in the world.
WION: How has the repatriation going on?
Vipul: Well, the repatriation has gone on very well. So far we have sent 4 flights from Dubai, one to Calicut, two to Chennai, one to Lucknow and all the flights have been very orderly. The Dubai authorities along with Air India have done exceedingly well, in terms of ensuring a very smooth flow of passengers. Of course, all the passengers are very relieved to go back home now, because many have been stranded here for some time and we got number of passengers who were pregnant ladies, number of workers who would have lost jobs or had completed the assignments here. A lot of elderly people and medical cases and these are the 4 categories we have concentrated the most on in the initial phase. Then there are students and visitors who were stranded. But overall it has gone very nicely and very smoothly.
WION: How has it been for our people and diplomats like you who have been on the ground facilitating the process. It is risky being out due to COVID.
Vipul: It is correct and there are jobs we have to do, and people at the airport have to do. In that, there is no choice and we are taking all the precautions. We taking all care that we are not going too near to the passengers. And at the same time, we have to be at the location so that it is an orderly flow. And sometimes especially here in Dubai, people get deboarded at the last minute because they have not done some formality or other. In some cases, people haven't turned up despite buying the ticket. And then you have to make sure seats don't go vacant, therefore we have had passengers in the waiting list and you have to arrange for that, so overall yes it there is some risk we are taking all precautions and hopefully, everything will go all well. The other thing with which we are facing difficulty or challenge is a huge number of Indian population is here in UAE, we 3.4 million and of course lot of people want to go to India right now and that has been a tough job. We have done that at random, and then also, we have taken people who have written to us or have approached us and who are really in a compelling circumstance were they have to go back to India.
WION: Any exact figure on the number of people who are expected to come back?
Vipul: It is a bit difficult to give an exact number. Six flights are slated to go from Dubai in next 4 days. And then for the 2nd phase as yet we don't have instructions from Delhi and information as to how many fights there would be. In terms of a number of people, it is large, there are also people who have gone into our database and filled up the details but not ready to go immediately. So it is a bit difficult to give the exact number. Of course, it is very large, on the portal, more than 250,000 people have registered so far but when we are calling people, they are not ready to go right now, so it is a bit difficult to give the exact number of people who will go in next few weeks.
WION: How have the UAE authorities helping out?
Vipul: They have been very very helpful. The UAE authorities are doing the test for all Indians and for all other stranded nationalities as well who are repatriating people. They have put in lot of staff that maintain order and make sure social distancing norms are maintained at the airport. Dubai police, Dubai health authorities and other agencies, they have been working together with us, ministry foreign affairs, everyone has been working together to make sure its a smooth operation and people do not face any difficulty. In any case, the large Indian population in UAE and number of COVID cases are also Indians and local authorities are taking care and doing the best to manage the situation. Authorities have been very helpful and cooperative.