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New Delhi: The biggest slice of the ongoing phase of repatriation flights for Indians affected by coronavirus disruptions worldwide has been set apart for the GCC countries, Anurag Srivastava, the Spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said here today.

The latest phase of these repatriation flights, known as the "Vande Bharat Mission," (VBM) began on March 1 and will last till March 28. Slightly more than 1,350 international flights are scheduled to be operated from 28 countries in this phase, enabling an estimated 260,000 Indians to travel home.

Of these, nearly 920 flights accounting for 68 percent of the total are from GCC countries, Srivastava said. Until yesterday, about 6.15 million Indians from all over the world have been repatriated, a large bulk of them owing to Coronavirus disruptions since the VBM flights began on 7th May last year.

Vande Bharat Mission

Repatriation under the VBM is made up of Indian government owned carriers, Indian private airlines, foreign carriers, chartered flights, naval ships and land border crossings. Srivastava said India presently has bilateral air bubble arrangements with 27 countries including five GCC states.

Air bubbles are temporary arrangements between two countries aimed at restarting commercial passenger services when regular international flights are suspended as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. India is yet to resume regular international commercial flights which were suspended early last year during a lockdown.

Compared to the large number of flights from the GCC under the VBM, only about 150 flights are from North America, around 120 from the UK and Europe, around 100 from South East Asia and around 50 from India's neighbourhood, the Spokesperson said.