Dubai: As part of the third phase of the Vande Bharat mission, Air India is flying out stranded Goan expatriates from Dubai to Dabolim International Airport in Goa on Monday, June 1.
The move has been welcomed by the 500-odd stranded Indian expatriates from the south-western coastal state.
This has come after several requests made by Goan expatriates for a direct repatriation flight.
According to a spokesperson at the Air India office in Dubai, flight no: AI 1913 will carry a total of 149 Goans, flying out from Dubai at 4.35pm hours and landing at 9.35pm.
“The ministry of external affairs received a several appeals from over 500 stranded Goan expatriates and the Chief Minister of Goa, Dr Pramod Sawant swung into action working in tandem with the local Indian mission in UAE to organise the flight which is an A320 Neo aircraft. It has a capacity for 160 passengers, 12 in business class and about 149 in economy, but on account of social distancing we are taking care to space people out,” added the spokesperson. Passengers had registered https://www.nri.gov.in/nri-asst-form.html or on https://www.cgidubai.gov.in
Goan expariates express joy and relief
Since Goa has been in the green zone in the pandemic distribution in India, most Goans were unwilling to fly to Mumbai which is facing the largest number of COVID-19 cases and is in the red zone. This flight has come as a huge relief to many Goans – expectant mothers, senior citizens and those who have faced job loss.
Nijbha Shaikh’s, aunt Fathima Sayed, 70 who flew in from Goa in January to help Shaikh manage her newborn, found her self stranded. “My aunt was kind enough to come down to help me, but she suffers from diabetes and hypertension and her visit visa ran out. My husband Shaikh Abdul Jaleel and I were so worried about her well-being. As soon as we heard about this flight we registered with the Indian mission and received a call yesterday. We are so relieved and will be happy when she reaches her home in Panjim, safe and sound,” said Shaikh.
Tahseen Mohin Narangee, from Mapusa, newly married came to visit her husband in November and found herself pregnant. “I am on resident visa, but was here for a short visit when I found myself pregnant. I was hoping to return by March. My parent and in-laws are very worried as this is my first child. I am seven months pregnant and very happy to fly back home,” said Narangee.
Vancy Denzil Dsouza who has been in Dubai for the last 10 years, lost his job as a logistics executive at the airport freezone. Recently married, to another Goan, Nadia Olivera, he was worried about how he would make ends meet. “My wife and I love Dubai and I will be back again on fresh employment. But for now, I have to go back home, so I am selling off everything and we are flying back to our home town for good. I am so happy that this flight has been arranged and we have found a place in it as living here without a job was impossible,” added Dsouza.
Mandatory thermal screening and seven day institutional quarantine for all
The tickets to fly are priced at a reasonable Dh765. Vishanti Coutancar, a Goan expatriate in Dubai for 14 years who was instrumental in communicating with the Goan Chief Minister, Sawant and the NRI commissioner Narendra Sawaikar, told Gulf News: “I am happy that my efforts have paid off as most of the stranded Goans were those without jobs, medicines, some on visit visa, pregnant women and older people. After this flight, we are making efforts to arrange a second flight soon to be able to evacuate as many needy Goans as possible,” said Coutancar.
The passengers will have to follow all Standard Operatating Procedures (SOP) for international arrivals during COVID-19 which includes giving an undertaking that they will be under a seven-day paid institutional quarantine and seven-day home quarantine, will compulsorily download the health app Arogya Setu and be registered on it, will follow all protocols inflight of wearing the mandatory mask and follow environmental, respiratory and hand hygiene rules, will undergo thermal screening on arrival and follow the rules of the government if found positive, among many other strict protocols.