Plea in SC for directions to govt to operate special flights to rescue Tamil migrants stranded in Kuwait
The petition contends that the Indian Embassy in Kuwait had turned down Kuwait’s amnesty scheme offering to ferry Indian migrants for free in March despite absence of any MEA directive
Four months after India announced the commencement of phase-wise lockdowns to contain spread of the Coronavirus, a petition has been filed in the apex court demanding special flights for Indians stranded in Kuwait.
Filed by Velinadu Vazh Tamilar Nala Sangam – an association of Tamils living abroad – the plea urged the Supreme Court to direct the Centre and the state of Tamil Nadu to “rescue and provide food and accommodation to the Indians stranded in Kuwait and further, to direct the Central and state government to make appropriate travel arrangements to bring the stranded Indian back to India”.
According to the petition, Kuwait had announced an amnesty in March 2020 and offered to ferry Indians stranded in the middle-east country back home free of cost, but “India declined owing to precautionary measures to combat COVID-19”.
“The wrong policies and human trafficking resulted such a large number of undocumented irregular Indian expatriates in Kuwait,” the petition added.
Incidentally, the amnesty was availed by 466 migrants from Sri Lanka, 640 from Bangladesh and 235 from Ghana who returned to their respective country even as India declined the proposal.
Pointing out the “negative” role played by the Indian Embassy in Kuwait, the petition contends that the embassy stopped online registration for the return even though while there was no such instruction from the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA).
“There has been no such notification or order from the Ministry of External Affairs or any other ministerial department of Government of India to suspend the registration process to repatriate Indian citizens under Vande Bharat Mission. Therefore, the decision of the embassy kept thousands of poor Indian stranded workers in Kuwait in limbo and greater fear of pandemic,” says the petition.
Seeking start of Vande Bharat Mission to ferry stranded migrants from Kuwait, the petition argues that the infection rate of incoming passengers from abroad to Tamil Nadu is under 2 percent. Therefore, governments should consider increasing the flights to Tamil Nadu.
According the International Labour Organization, the six Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) member countries - Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait and Oman - host a majority of the 23 million migrant workers living in Arab states, mostly from Asia.
It is worth recalling here that the Government of India, in the second week of May, had announced about 35 repatriation flights for the Gulf region between 16 and 23 May, with a plan to evacuate 200,000 Indians from across the globe by the end of June.