With the government banning the operation of international flights amid the coronavirus outbreak, Indians stranded in the UK and Malaysia have approached the Indian missions for help in finding accommodation as they wait for flights after March 31.
Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla told The Indian Express, “There maybe be many people returning from abroad who would be feeling inconvenienced. The government is fully aware of the situation and is doing its best. Officers and employees are putting in hours and days of work to make their safe return possible.”
About 280 Indians are stuck in Kuala Lumpur. The Indian High Commission there has tied up with some local NGOs to provide temporary accommodation to them. In London, about 19 Indians are in the Indian High Commission and have demanded that they be put on a flight immediately. Initially, 59 Indians had gone to the High Commission and about 40 of them have been provided temporary accommodation.
A 34-year-old businessman, who is one of the Indians stranded in Malaysia, told The Indian Express, “Some NGOs have arranged for our accommodation in guest houses, apartments. Right now, accommodation and food is ok. We are safe now.”
Passengers said that while the Indian High Commission was initially not responding to their calls for help, they swung into action after some MPs from Andhra Pradesh approached the central government in this regard.
Indian diplomats said Indians stranded in Malaysia due to the restrictions were on Saturday taken to different hostels and hotels. Malaysia has so far reported 900 cases of coronavirus infection, the highest figure for any Southeast Asian country.
The Indian High Commission in Kuala Lumpur said they coordinated with local NGOs and community organisations and moved those stranded to safer locations.
“Hundreds of Indians stranded in Malaysia waiting at KLIA2 taken to different hostels, hotels etc. by @hcikl in close coordination with local NGOs and community organizations,” the official Twitter handle of the High Commission in Kuala Lumpur posted.
In London, a group of 19 Indian students sought refuge on the premises of the Indian High Commission in London on Saturday night and demanded to be put on a flight to India despite the travel restrictions.
The group of students, mostly from Telangana, refused offers of alternate accommodation arranged with the help of Indian diaspora groups. India’s ban on travellers from the UK and Europe will remain in place until the end of this month.
Initially, there were 59 students and 40 of them have been allocated alternative accommodation, but the remaining 19 are refusing to move.
Many of them had flights booked back to India for later this month in time for what is usually an Easter break period at the universities in the UK. However, India issued an updated travel advisory earlier this week, saying that no travellers would be allowed entry after 1200 GMT on March 18 until March 31.
“There simply are no flights and we cannot be putting lives in danger at this stage. They were allowed entry into the High Commission building and provided food, water and temporary shelter, but they are now just camping out with their bags and baggage,” a local Indian community leader said.
The students have been placed within a quarantined space, which houses the visa and consular section within the Indian High Commission building at Aldwych in central London.
(with PTI inputs from London)
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