Indians stranded in DR Congo, Kuwait and UK seek urgent action to return home

Hundreds of Indian citizens are seeking intervention for flights to help them get back home.
Passengers at an airport
Passengers at an airport
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India began its Vande Bharath mission to bring back stranded Indian nationals from different parts of the world on May 7 and phase two of the plan that will extend upto mid-June is currently underway. However, hundreds of Tamil citizens stranded in different parts of the world are seeking urgent help from the government to return home.

According to Ministry of External Affairs website, during phase one of Vande Bharath Mission (May 7 to 17), eight flights returned to Tamil Nadu carrying stranded passengers from Dubai (2), Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (2), Kuwait (1) Muscat, Oman (1), Dhaka, Bangladesh (1) and Manila, Philippines (1). Meanwhile, in phase two, no flights have come into Tamil Nadu so far.

About 350 Tamils stranded in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DR Congo), in Central Africa had written to Pon Gautham Sigamani, Member of Parliament from Kallakurichi constituency in Tamil Nadu and a member of DMK, seeking permission for a chartered flight to return to the state.

“The outbreak of corona in this country as per statistics available is not looking worrisome, which might be due to inadequate facility to conduct the test and the method of testing that plays a role in low numbers. Hence, in the first place we would like to request you to not ignore us considering the ambiguous statistics in place,” they wrote in the letter dated May 21. They have also added that the inadequate medical facilities and the DR Congo government’s unclear plan to tackle the pandemic is causing them worry.

DR Congo has about 20,000 expatriate community members working for various industries, mining companies, trade houses, non profit organisations, etc., of which 350 are Tamils. Following this, Pon Gautham Sigamani wrote to the Minister of External Affairs, the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu and to the Minister of Civil Aviation on Tuesday. “They are negotiating with Air India and other sources to organise Chartered Flight for the emergency evacuation. Their efforts to reach the external affairs ministry and airlines have not been fruitful till now,” he has written.

Similarly, Tamils in the United Kingdom and in Kuwait are seeking urgent intervention to return home. About 300 Tamils stranded in the United Kingdom have shared that they missed the flight to Chennai on May 14 under the Vande Bharath mission and are unable to step outside their homes due to lockdown. Around 300 of them in different parts of the UK are seeking help from the state government to return home.

A member from the group reached out to TNM on Twitter expressing her concern over people who have urgent needs and have to return home. Shyamala who lives in UK writes with urgency, "If you can see our Twitter wall (UK Tamil Makkal), you will be able to understand that there are many people here with emergency and desperate needs and it seems like the central and state governments have turned a deaf ear to our pleas. We din't have any flights since the first phase of evacuation to Tamil Nadu. While there have been flights to other states in the second phase, the Tamils are still stranded here."

Over 2,600 Tamils currently lodged in Kuwait camps are eagerly awaiting flights back to the state, even while pardoned Indian migrant workers in the country, whose visas expired before March, were being sent back to Indian states like Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, etc.

The Tamil migrant workers in Kuwait have highlighted the poor living conditions in the government camps and have also added that while Kuwait government has extended the pardon for those with expired visa for upto 3 months, further extension would lead them to be blacklisted which would prevent them from working in any Gulf country for a period of five years.

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