13 mn Indians abroad, selective evacuation not feasible, MEA to SC

New Delhi, April 13 (IANS) The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) has informed the Supreme Court that there are 13 million Indians – including NRIs and students – abroad and the government is seeking to minimise the severe risk posed by arrivals from an increasing number of countries affected by Covid-19.
The government has urged the Indian nationals to stay put where they are to contain the further spread of the virus within India and allow the health machinery to focus on domestic containment effectively. In the UK, there are about 400,000 Indian nationals, including about 50,000 students. The UK government has now extended visas till May 31 and has issued necessary guidelines.
“However, given the present situation of the coronavirus outbreak in India and the available limited resources, it is not feasible to selectively evacuate Indian citizens from abroad when a large number of them from a number of countries want to return back due to various reasons,” said the MEA in its reply to the Supreme Court.
The response from the government came on a plea filed in the Supreme Court seeking direction to the Centre to evacuate a group of nearly 380 Indian students stranded in the UK without delay, and until their evacuation, provide them with accommodation, health and medical support.
The MEA said some countries have reported a very large number of cases including deaths, putting passengers from these countries particularly at higher risk of infection.
The return of such passengers to different regions of India poses a grave risk to the country of a population of over 1.3 billion, it contended.
Noting the very large Indian community abroad, it said: “Only in some cases Indian students are said to have vacated their hostels or rented accommodations. In such cases, the High Commission of India, London and Indian Consulates have arranged accommodation and food at highly subsidised rates.”
The government informed the top court that several pleas have been filed across the country to evacuate Indians stranded abroad. “High Courts have noted the steps and efforts being undertaken by the Government of India to assist Indian nationals abroad and have also acknowledged that due to the lockdown situations prevailing both in India as well as other countries, it will not be possible to repatriate Indian nationals at this stage,” said the ministry.
Indian nationals abroad are being mobilised by the High Commissions/Embassies/Posts to help fellow Indians in distress in that country. The Centre said wherever there is a concern of expiration of visas of such Indian nationals in those countries, the foreign governments concerned, have, on the request of the missions/posts, extended the visas.
“Wherever possible, missions are also providing food, accommodation etc. to the stranded Indian students. Mission is also informing/guiding about the restrictions being imposed, advisories being issued by the local Governments of those countries,” the MEA said.

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