The most successful and streamlined repatriation of Indians abroad wishing to return home following the Coronavirus pandemic has been from the UAE.
Since the “Vande Bharat Mission,” VBM, to bring back its citizens from across the globe was launched by the Indian government on 7th May, “the UAE saw more than 1,60,000 Indians return home, while Kerala saw the largest number of returnees,” India’s top most official for Overseas Indian Affairs, has told a consultation meeting here on “Evacuation and Repatriation of Migrants during COVID-19.”
Sanjay Bhattacharyya, who currently Secretary in the Ministry of External Affairs, MEA, in charge of Consular Affairs, Passports and Visas, said that “as a nation with over 31 million diaspora, including 18 million citizens overseas, the pandemic was a major challenge. For us, the welfare and protection of our citizens abroad is a key priority.”
He added that “the Vande Bharat Mission is the largest, most complex and challenging exercise ever undertaken by the Indian government for repatriation of our nationals stranded overseas, despite our earlier experiences in Libya, Kuwait, Yemen and others” during crises there, which required Indians to leave.
As of this week, 580,000 out of just over 661,352 people who had registered their interest with Indian embassies across the world in 137 countries have returned home. This involved 860 Air India flights, and 1,256 other chartered flights and eight ship voyages, Bhattacharyya said.
Simultaneously, the MEA assisted in the safe evacuation of over 1,20,000 foreign nationals from 118 nations, including several hundred UAE citizens stranded in India. “Besides, several citizens from our neighbourhood returned on VBM fights.”
Anurag Srivastava, the MEA Spokesperson, offered the supplementary information that “the demand of stranded Indians to return is now mainly from the GCC countries, Malaysia and Singapore. We are committed to continue our efforts in repatriating all such Indian nationals who are stranded outside and are desirous of returning to India.”