Friday, July 10, 2020

MEA assisted safe evacuation of over 1.2 lakh foreigners stranded in India during lockdown

New Delhi: The Ministry of External Affairs assisted safe evacuation of over 1.2 lakh foreign citizens from 118 nations stranded in India during the lockdown, a senior MEA official said on Thursday.

Sanjay Bhattacharyya, Secretary, Consular, Passport and Visa (CPV) and Overseas Indian Affairs (OIA) in the Ministry of External Affairs, said the Covid-19 has emerged as the biggest challenge to humanity in the 21st century as this “invisible enemy” has infected people in millions and killed in hundreds of thousands.

Speaking at the Regional Consultations (Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, ILO) on Evacuation and Repatriation of Migrants during COVID-19, he said that for India, the welfare and protection of its citizens abroad was a key priority as the pandemic broke out.

“Initially we organised evacuation missions for our citizens from China, Italy and Iran (where the contagion took early roots). Subsequently, we closed our airspace, in line with domestic lockdown norms, but opened up with easing of movements within the country,” he said.
The government commenced repatriation operations under the Vande Bharat Mission (VBM) on May 7 to facilitate the return of Indian nationals stranded abroad, but having compelling reasons, in a phased manner, Bhattacharyya said.

These operations involved non-scheduled commercial flights by Air India and later other airlines, ships of the Indian Navy in Operation Samudra Setu and land border crossings, he said.

“The Vande Bharat Mission is the largest, most complex and challenging exercise ever undertaken by the government for repatriation of our nationals stranded overseas, despite our earlier experience in Libya, Kuwait, Yemen and others,” he said.
10/07/20 PTI/Business Line
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