A family of seven, including two senior citizens, remains stranded in Turkey since two months awaiting the Indian government’s nod to get airlifted. They are among around 230 Indians in Istanbul waiting to return home.
However, under the Vande Bharat Mission, while Indians from 12 countries have been rescued and more from 32 countries are set to be airlifted, Turkey is not in the list.
“When we left for Turkey for a family holiday, we inquired with a lot of agents. Everyone told us it was safe to travel. Then, there was just one Covid-19 case there,” said Mahek Jain (21). They reached Turkey on March 14. Two days later, the Indian government announced it will stop all international flights from March 22.
Mahek’s father Amit Jain (50), a chartered accountant, said the last flight from Istanbul to India was on March 18. They could not board it as they were in Kusadasi. Amit’s 80-year-old father suffers from Alzheimer’s, depression and high blood pressure. “My father has severe health problems, has four stents and partial eye vision. Every day, he tells us to return home,” Amit said. The family, which also included Amit’s 70-year-old mother, his wife and two other children, is at present residing in Istanbul in a rented accommodation.
The Indian Embassy has created a WhatsApp group of Indians stranded in Turkey. While at least 280 Indians are currently stranded in Turkey, over 50 people have decided to wait for commercial flight operations to resume.“The flight fare is three times the normal fare. Many said they cannot afford it. But while most of us are ready to pay, Istanbul is not in the list of countries from where Indians are being airlifted,” Amit said.
“The Covid-19 cases are rising here as well. We only step out to buy groceries twice a week,” he added.
The family said Turkish Airlines operated two flights on April 28 to Mumbai and Delhi to bring back its citizens. Mahek, who is going to appear for her final CA exams, said they have emailed the Indian Embassy and reached out to the government. “The reply we get is ‘be patient’,” she said.
Mehraj Abdul Rahim was travelling with his friend to Africa from India in March when they were stopped in transit at the Istanbul airport. “My African visa expired on March 31. We stayed in quarantine facility for 14 days in Istanbul. After that we were asked to live on our own. We do not have a Turkish visa. Since April, I am staying in a hotel… almost all my money is finished. We have spent $ 4,000 till now,” he said.
The Indian Embassy, he added, has given no clarity on when they can return home. “We were told Turkey will be on list of 32 countries in the second phase, but that has not happened.”
“This pandemic will continue… It has been two months, the government has to help us,” Rahim said. The WhatsApp group has a woman member, who had come with her husband on week-long honeymoon. She lost her father on May 1 but could not return. Another man on the group said his wife is pregnant but he has no means to return.
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