When in March 2020 thousands of Indian citizens were left stranded in the Gulf countries due to the lockdown, they numerously expressed their eagerness to come back to India. After two months, their misfortune might very soon be over. India begins a massive repatriation campaign, aiming to bring 15,000 Indians back home in a week. The operation stands a good chance to become the largest repatriation operation to India.
Air India, supported by the subsidiary Air India Express, plans to perform 64 repatriation flights in seven days, from May 7 to May 13, 2020. Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri confirmed that private airlines of India might join the repatriation after May 13, for an extra charge.
“On arrival from abroad, all passengers will be screened and put under quarantine for a period of 14 days as a COVID-19 precautionary measure”, Puri commented. Passengers will have to pay for their journeys.
The operation will initially span to 12 countries: the UK, the USA, UAE, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Qatar, Malaysia, Philippines, Bangladesh, Bahrain, Oman, and Kuwait.
The mission also includes special flights for people currently located in India. They can fly out of the country to three directions: the US, UK, and Singapore.
Apart from the 15,000 people to be evacuated in the first week, the Indian Navy actually talks about a much bigger number of 1.8 million people awaiting repatriation, according to Bloomberg.
In such case, the Indian evacuation mission would definitely get ahead of the biggest UK peacetime repatriation since the World War “Operation Matterhorn”. The latter operation had to transfer 150,000 holidaymakers after Thomas Cook’s bankruptcy in 2019. The current operation would as well outnumber the 1990 rescue mission by Air India that evacuated 170,000 people from Kuwait during the Gulf War.