About 150 Indian nationals working at the oil refinery of Japan Gas Corporation (JGC) are stranded in Hassi Messaoud in Algeria, where many huge oil and gas companies are situated. Among the 150, about 60 are from Kerala, while the others are from Karnataka, Maharashtra, Telangana, Maharashtra and New Delhi.
“We have access to food and accommodation. The company is taking good care of us. But, we want to go home because the COVID-19 cases in Algeria are increasing and the health system here is not capable of dealing with it,” Sam (name changed), one of the employees, told TNM.
“If one of us fall sick or get infected, the health facilities here will not be able to take care of us. Besides, we live on the outskirts of Algeria and to access the healthcare centres in the city, we have to travel almost 150 kilometres,” he added.
Fortunately, apart from food and accommodation, the company has also arranged a chartered flight for these Indian nationals, and even booked hotels in India for these employees to remain in quarantine on arrival in India.
So what is impeding their journey? “We have not received the permission to land in India. The company had sent the application two weeks ago, that is, a week after the lockdown in Algeria started in April. The Algerian government has approved the journey, so has the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA). However, what we are hearing now is that the Indian Ministry has not approved it yet,” he explained.
According to Sam, his colleagues from other countries, like Bangladesh, the Philippines and Malaysia, have already left the country with the help of their respective governments. “Only we are left to go. A Japanese national of the company, too, is staying back with us and he cannot leave until we leave,” he added.