[India, UAE And Gulf] No Plans For Emergency Flights, Indian Expats Safe In Gulf

23 APR 2020

The Indian government has advised against air travel for expats in the UAE and the Gulf until flight restrictions to their home country are lifted. This in response to demands, from some quarters, for special repatriation flights to India, Khaleej Times reports.

A senior Indian External Affairs Ministry official was quoted as saying Indian citizens are safe in their current countries of residence. Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke with leaders of Gulf countries who reassured him of expatriate welfare, the Indian foreign ministry said. Meanwhile, according to a Malayalam news report, V Muraleedharan - the Minister of State for External Affairs - also ruled out such repatriation flights.

Responding to a question from Khaleej Times on blue-collar workers' frustrations in the wake of job losses, Vikas Swarup - Secretary West in the foreign ministry - reportedly said, "Insofar as repatriation is concerned, as you are aware, government has advised against all travel, and Indians have been told to stay where they are, As and when the (21-day) lockdown is lifted, and normal civil aviation resumes, Indians wishing to come back will be able to do so."

The latest data from the Indian foreign affairs ministry suggests there are 1,400 cases of COVID-19 infections among Indian expats in the Gulf region.

Mr Swarup said infected Indians are being treated and held in isolation in the UAE and Gulf. "Our missions have established contact with all the community leaders and the situation is under control," he said.

Cargo flights operating normally 

Cargo flights transporting fruit and vegetables from India to the Gulf have not been disrupted and will continue as usual, the diplomat said. Adding, "We are also helping with medicines based on the requests of Gulf countries."

Eight million India expatriates live in the Gulf, close to three million of those are in the UAE accounting for over 60 per cent of remittances to their home country.

India's own 21-day lockdown was due to end on Tuesday. Indications are that it will be extended. Some states like Orissa have extended their lockdowns until the end of the month and others are expected to follow their example.

The government believes COVID-19 is concentrated in 75 districts and that the focus should be to contain and manage the virus in these areas.