Jeddah: The Indian missions in the Gulf region are gearing up to repatriate NRI workers — desperate to return home — with the first flight from the region scheduled to reach India on Friday. The national carrier, Air India, would fly back the NRIs after the Indian diplomatic missions decide who would be boarding the flights.
Distressed workers, Indians requiring medical attention, pregnant women will be given priority, Indian Ambassador in Saudi Arabia Dr Ausaf Sayeed said.
Addressing a press conference on Wednesday, the envoy said that it was not an evacuation operation by the Government of India but merely facilitating transportation of Indian nationals who intend to return home amid the coronavirus fears, with the passengers bearing the travel cost.
“Quarantine charges vary from State to State and classification of facility, which also need to be paid by the returning NRI,” he said. Five flights would be operated from Saudi Arabia to various Indian destinations in the first phase. Hyderabad is not included, he said.
The first flight from Saudi Arabia is scheduled to leave Riyadh on Friday for Kozhikode. Hyderabad and other destinations would be added at a later stage after assessing the enrollment from NRIs. So far, there is no proposal of ships to operate for Kingdom.
The maiden repatriation flight will carry at least 240 passengers. Some 60,000 people in Saudi Arabia have registered on the Indian diplomatic missions’ online platform, awaiting emergency repatriation back home.
The NRIs who tested negative only would be allowed to travel and also follow the health protocols upon their arrival in India, he told.
Several Saudi companies approached the Indian embassy with the request to allow special aircraft to ferry laid-off workers. However, no final decision has been taken yet.
He also said that there were 300 Indians lodged in various deportation centres in Saudi Arabia, but they were not included in the travel plan.
“Some Indian nurses, who are pregnant, need to be transported back home. Though their travel is part of their employing hospital contractual obligation yet on a humanitarian basis, the Indian government has arranged their travel in first priority,” he said.
There will be two flights each from Kuwait and Abu Dhabi to Hyderabad from the Gulf region in the first phase.
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