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UK announces more India charter flights to rescue stranded Brits

By Deepak Arora

NEW DELHI, April 10: Over 3,000 British travellers currently stranded in India will get home on 12 additional charter flights which have opened for bookings today.

This follows the seven charter flights announced on April 5 from Goa, Mumbai and New Delhi (8-12 April) and will take the total number of people brought back on these 19 flights to around 5,000.

The first charter flight from India arrived at London Stanstead on Thursday morning with 317 British nationals on board from Goa.

UK Minister of State for South Asia and the Commonwealth, Lord (Tariq) Ahmad of Wimbledon said: “We are doing all we can to get thousands of British travellers in India home. This is a huge and complex operation which also involves working with the Indian Government to enable people to move within India to get on these flights. Over 300 people arrived from Goa on Thursday morning, 1,400 more will arrive over the Easter weekend and these 12 flights next week will bring back thousands more.”

Jan Thompson, Acting High Commissioner to India, said: “We can confirm 12 more charter flights to bring British travellers back home – on top of the flights already launched. We are extremely grateful for the support we are receiving from the Government of India on this. Getting people home as quickly as possible remains our absolute priority.”

The following flights to London are scheduled for the next two weeks and British travellers should visit the India Travel Advice page to reserve seats as well as for any further information:

Amritsar - UK: 13, 17, 19 April

Ahmedabad - UK: 13, 15 April

Goa - UK: 14, 16 April

Goa (via Mumbai) - UK: 18 April

Thiruvananthapuram (via Kochi) - UK: 15 April

Hyderabad (via Ahmedabad) - UK: 17 April

Kolkata (via Delhi) - UK: 19 April

Chennai (via Bengaluru) - UK: 20 April

India is a priority country for the FCO to arrange charter flights from, with a large number of Britons seeking to return and a lack of commercial options – made more challenging by the size of the country and the restrictions on movement that are in place.

The UK Government is working with the airline industry and host governments across the world to help bring back British travellers to the UK as part of the plan announced by the Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab last week (30 March) – with up to £75 million available for special charter flights to priority countries, focused on helping the most vulnerable travellers. So far, flights have brought back British travellers from the Philippines, Ecuador, Bolivia, Nepal, Ghana, Tunisia, Algeria and Peru.

US, UK set to evacuate their nationals from India

NEW DELHI, April 5: The UK and the US are set to join a list of countries that have been evacuating their stranded nationals from India, with the Boris Johnson government on Sunday announcing the first wave of seven charter flights for some 20,000 Britons in different states.

The UK government has said it will provide £75 million for special charter flights, where commercial routes do not exist, to bring home thousands of Britons stranded in various countries. The flights from India will depart from Goa on April 8, 10 and 12, from Mumbai on April 9 and 11, and from New Delhi on April 9 and 11.

The flights cost each adult £681 from Goa, £600 from Mumbai and £581 from Delhi, and infants under the age of two will travel free.

The UK’s acting high commissioner to India, Jan Thompson, said: “We know how worrying the past few weeks have been for British nationals in India. I hope this announcement will bring relief, especially to those in greatest need.

“Due to the large numbers of British travellers involved, the scale of this operation is huge. The UK government continues to work hard with our Indian counterparts in New Delhi and London to arrange a safe journey back for as many people as possible.”

Officials said the charter flights are for British travellers who normally reside in the UK and their direct dependants. A number of seats will be reserved for those deemed vulnerable. On Saturday, 113 of the most vulnerable British nationals left Goa on an Irish flight.

An estimated 35,000 British nationals are currently in India but only some 20,000 have expressed a desire to return.

The US, which flew out some 200 citizens from India on March 31, is set to operate a steady flow of flights from Delhi and Mumbai this week. People familiar with developments said several thousand Americans, most of them stranded tourists and travellers, will be evacuated by these flights.

The US embassy announced on Sunday there will be flights from New Delhi to San Francisco (April 6, 7 and 8) and from Mumbai to Atlanta (April 7 and 10).

“We do not know for how long US government-organised flights returning to the United States will continue after this week. We urge US citizens who want to return to the United States to take advantage of the current opportunities,” the embassy said in an alert posted on its website.

The embassy said it will also facilitate transportation to Delhi from some cities in northern and eastern India, including flights from Dehradun, Amritsar and Chandigarh, and bus services from Ludhiana and Dharamsala. It will also arrange flights from Chennai and Hyderabad to Mumbai.

A total of 22 countries evacuated almost 14,000 people from India till late last week, the people cited above said on condition of anonymity.

Germany has flown out some 3,000 citizens in about 10 flights from different Indian cities, Japan about 2,300 in some 10 flights, Malaysia about 2,100 citizens in 13 flights, Israel about 1,600 citizens in eight flights, and Russia almost 1,100 citizens in four flights.

France, which has so far evacuated 400 nationals in one flights, has plans to evacuate almost 1,600 more stranded tourists and travellers.

Special arrangements have also been made by the countries to arrange “movement permits” in view of domestic travel restrictions currently in force across India. These permits call on Indian authorities to allow passage, without delay or detention, to the foreign nationals.

The people cited above said there are currently no plans to arrange flights to bring back Indians stranded abroad. The government recently advised stranded Indians to “stay put” and Indian missions have been tasked to help them.

US to airlift 22,000 Americans stranded overseas; many in India

WASHINGTON, April 5: The US is working “aggressively” to airlift around 22,000 Americans stranded overseas, many of them in India, due to the coronavirus pandemic, a senior official has said.

The US has so far repatriated around 37,000 Americans stranded overseas due to the pandemic and is planning to bring another 22,000 of its citizens, many of whom are in South Asia, especially India, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Consular Affairs Ian Brownlee told reporters during a conference call on Friday.

“We have repatriated roughly 37,000 US citizens from over 60 countries on more than 400 flights. It includes over 20,000 Americans repatriated in the past week alone,” Brownlee said.

He said the US State Department has approximately 70 flights scheduled in the coming days which should bring back several thousand more US citizens.

“South Asia now has the most US citizens wishing to return. So far the US has brought home almost 1,000 Americans from South Asia and are working aggressively to assist thousands more who have expressed an interest in returning,” Brownlee said.

“The total number we’re looking at overseas at this point is about 22,000. The greatest number of those – certainly the plurality of those – are in South and Central Asia, many of them in India,” he added.

Brownlee urged Americans to return to their home country as soon as possible.

“For the US citizens contemplating whether or not to come home, the time to act is now. Flights will not continue indefinitely, but we want to do all we can to assist you while we are still able to do so,” he said.

More than 60,000 people have died from coronavirus since it was first detected late last year in China.

With more than three lakh confirmed cases of coronavirus infection and over 8,000 fatalities, the US has emerged as the global epicentre of the deadly coronavirus disease to which there has been no cure.



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