As part of its global efforts in taking home its nationals, the UK has announced a series of 52 special flights to take back over 13000 British nationals living in India. A total of 52 UK government charter flights are operating daily from 8 April to 4 May out of 11 cities. These are Ahmedabad, Amritsar, Bengaluru, Chennai, New Delhi, Goa, Hyderabad, Kochi, Kolkata, Mumbai and Thiruvananthapuram.
Locations with the largest number of vulnerable persons and those from locations where arrangements could be put in place more quickly have been prioritised. The flights pressed into service to carry out this movement are UK Government charters. The airlines are Virgin, Titan, British Airways, Egypt Air and Qatar Airways.
Over 9500 British nationals have already been taken home and the remaining are being sent according to a waiting list prepared on the basis of location and booking date.
Based on the number of British nationals in India, this is likely to be one of the largest charter flight operations by the UK in response to the pandemic. As many as 35,000 British nationals are currently in India and over 20,000 have communicated to the British High Commission that they wished to return to the UK at the earliest.
UK Minister of State for South Asia and the Commonwealth, Lord (Tariq) Ahmad of Wimbledon said, “We know this is a difficult time for British travellers and there is great demand for these flights. This is a huge and logistically-complex operation, and we are working tirelessly with the Indian Government and state authorities to help more British travelers get home.”
Those wishing to go home have been advised to comply with lockdown restrictions, avoid moving location and follow the advice of the local authorities. They have also been advised to be prepared for the possibility that restrictions could be extended.
The British High Commission has been maintaining close daily contact with the Government of India and local authorities to facilitate ground travel of those who are flying back. As ground travel is restricted due to lockdown requisite permissions are being arranged.
Jan Thompson, Acting High Commissioner to India, said: “There will be 17 more charter flights next week to take British travellers back to the UK – on top of the 21 flights announced previously. We are working around the clock to arrange additional flights from locations where we know large numbers are still stranded and are extremely grateful for the support we are receiving from the Government of India and local authorities.”
While the British High Commission has been providing consular support to its nationals, constant interaction to provide support and assistance is also being done through twitter.
Meanwhile, the Government of India has announced that the visa period for all international visitors in India can be extended until 3 May at no additional cost upon submission of an online application to the Foreigners Registration Office.