Employers will now be allowed to organise charter flights to India to repatriate staff Image Credit: Picture for illustrative purpose only

Dubai: India has allowed companies in the UAE and elsewhere to charter flights to repatriate their stranded employees including seafarers, a top diplomat told Gulf News on Friday.

India’s Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) issued an official memorandum on Friday regarding the repatriation of stranded Indian seafarers and other employees on charter flights by their overseas employers.

The announcement comes as the second phase of the massive exercise to repatriate overseas Indians under the Vande Bharat Mission ends tomorrow (May 23).

Consul General of India in Dubai Vipul said the MHA circular has paved the way for companies in the UAE, who wanted to repatriate many of their employees, to charter flights.

“There are companies who have a lot of Indian employees waiting to be repatriated. Some such companies who want to send their employees on chartered flights had approached us for permission,” said Vipul.

He said the Indian Ambassador to the UAE Pavan Kapoor had taken up the matter with the Indian government, following which the government issued the new circular, allowing employers to charter repatriation flights.

He said both the missions in the UAE had together received requests for the repatriation of around 12,000 employees.

The MHA circular stated that the cost of the travel has to be borne by the traveller or the employer.

As per the UAE laws, companies or sponsors are responsible for providing the return tickets to employees flying home for good.

“So far everyone [companies who expressed interest] is ready to take care of flight chartering costs,” said Vipul.

Quarantine costs

However, it is not clear if the companies would sponsor the returning employees’ paid quarantine stay in India.

The MHA circular stated that, “All travellers shall give an undertaking, before boarding, that they would undergo mandatory institutional quarantine for a minimum period of 14 days on arrival in India at their own cost or at the cost of their employers.”

Vipul pointed out that it was difficult for the missions to accommodate large numbers of workers from some specific companies on special repatriation flights under the Vande Bharat Mission which cater to stranded Indians with compelling reasons to fly home.

Since May 7, more than 4,000 Indians in the UAE have been flown to their home states on special flights by Air India and Air India Express.

Vipul said the missions have also intimated the government about the proposal to fly 10 chartered flights submitted by the Kerala Muslim Cultural Centre (KMCC).

The expat community organisation has been campaigning for the early repatriation of stranded Keralites, who form the highest among the registered Indians.

The Indian government has allotted the highest number of flights under Vande Bharat Mission to Kerala considering the huge number of registrations and the massive arrangements made by the state government for receiving the returning expats.

Visa, travel restrictions eased for OCI cardholders

India’s MHA has relaxed visa and travel restrictions imposed in response to COVID -19, permitting certain categories of Overseas Citizen Of India (OCI) cardholders, who are stranded abroad, to come to India.

The following categories of OCI cardholders stranded abroad, have been permitted to come to India:-

•Minor children born to Indian nationals abroad and holding OCI cards.

•OCI cardholders who wish to come to India on account of family emergencies like death in family.

•Couples where one spouse is an OCI cardholder and the other is an Indian national and they have a permanent residence in India.

•University students who are OCI cardholders (not legally minors) but whose parents are Indian citizens living in India.

The travel restrictions, imposed earlier by MHA on May 5 would not apply to any aircraft, ship, train or any other vehicle deployed for bringing back these categories of OCI cardholders who are stranded abroad.