Foreign missions start flying out stranded citizens on special flights

About 6,000-10,000 foreign nationals are expected to be evacuated on special flights, as all international flights have been cancelled.

WITH INDIA on a 21-day lockdown, foreign embassies are chalking out plans to evacuate their stranded citizens, mostly tourists. While some have already begun evacuation, others are working on it.

Sources told The Indian Express that 10-12 countries, including Germany, France, US, UK, Canada, Israel, Russia and Afghanistan, have sought permission to evacuate their citizens. About 6,000-10,000 foreign nationals are expected to be evacuated on special flights, as all international flights have been cancelled.

About 1,000 Germans are being evacuated Wednesday and Thursday; Russia sent back about 400 of its nationals Wednesday.

The French Embassy is planning to evacuate about 2,000 tourists in the next few days. The US and UK are also working on similar plans for their nationals.

The Israeli Embassy helped some of its citizens leave from Goa and Mumbai recently. It is planning three more flights — two from Delhi and one from Mumbai

A German embassy spokesperson told The Indian Express that about 500 German tourists will take a special flight (A380) back to Germany on Wednesday night, while another 500 will be flown back on Thursday night.

A French diplomatic source said: “We are also in talks with the Indian government to have special flights operated via Air France. We are working out the necessary approvals. The tourists want to go back to their homes. We are getting about 500 calls per day from French nationals stuck here.”

Sources said about 11,500 French nationals are currently in India. The mission’s core team is operating out of the embassy, while the rest of the staff are working from home. “Only one staff member has gone back as she was having some ailments and wanted to return home,” said the source.

The US Embassy put out a health alert and said that the US Mission in India continues to work with the US Department of State and airline companies to arrange flights from India.

“Once these flights are arranged, we will work with the Indian government to arrange, to the greatest extent possible, safe passage to airports for US citizens. We know there is great interest from US citizens in obtaining assistance to depart India, and we are working to support necessary arrangements,” it said.

A British High Commission spokesperson said: “We recognise that British tourists abroad, including in India, are finding it difficult to return to the UK because of the unprecedented international travel and domestic restrictions that are being introduced around the world — often with little notice. We are working around the clock to support British travellers in this situation. Our staff are supporting those with urgent need while providing travel advice and support to those still in India”.

“We are also collecting information on British nationals currently in India to help understand how best to support them and to advise them when commercial flights to the UK become available. British nationals who wish to urgently return to the UK should email [email protected] with personal details,” the spokesperson said.

“If we learn any new info re: availability of intl & domestic flights & how to navigate travel to airport for scheduled flights we’ll share it here & via ROCA,” the Canadian High Commission tweeted, as it asked its nationals to send their details to [email protected]

“Following vigorous follow-ups, the proposal of evacuating all stranded Afghan citizens in India is likely to be approved by the Indian Govt starting tomorrow. We ask our stranded fellow Afghans to contact KamAir for their flight details,” Afghan envoy Tahir Qadiry tweeted.

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