THE Indian High Commissioner to the UK, Ruchi Ghanashyam, issued another warning on Friday (4) for Indians stranded in the country amid the lockdown to not be misled by “mischievous” information being circulated around possible evacuation flights to India.
Ghanashyam praised the “laudable contribution” of these Indian nationals in strengthening India’s fight against Covid-19 by staying put in the UK, and reiterated that there was no change to India’s temporary ban on inbound international passenger flights, in place until April 14.
“All of you who are in the UK have made a laudable contribution to strengthen India’s hands in the fight against Covid19 by staying put wherever you are despite facing hardships. I understand the pain of being far from loved ones during these difficult times,” said Ghanashyam in a statement.
“On concerns regarding travel to India, the High Commission is in touch with the Indian authorities concerned and will keep Indian citizens in the UK updated as and when new travel advisories are issued by the government of India. In the meanwhile, I request all of you not to believe in the misleading and mischievous information circulated by some elements,” she said.
The statement, which also flagged yoga and breathing exercises as a means to boost overall health, came amid calls for passenger swaps as the UK government began putting arrangements in place to evacuate thousands of British nationals stranded in different parts of India as part of a £75-million worldwide effort involving charter flights.
There have been calls for these special flights to be used to ferry back stranded Indians from the UK as well.
“We need a swap, for the British foreign secretary [Dominic Raab] to speak to the Indian foreign minister [S Jaishankar] as quickly as possible. People have all registered with the High Commission, but have had no further information,” said Keith Vaz, former Labour Party MP and current chair of the Integration Foundation.
Hundreds of Indian students, professionals and tourists are stranded in different parts of the UK after India updated its travel advisory to impose a ban on international flights until April 14 as part of its lockdown to control the spread of Covid-19.
Among them is a group of nearly 400 students from India who started a data chain with their passport details to create a collective voice to lobby the Indian government for evacuation.
The UK Home Office confirmed that any foreign students or professionals on visas that had expired or expiring would be given an extension at least until May 31.
There is some relief over the grace period but the Indian High Commission’s social media channels continue to be inundated by Indians desperate to return home, some of whom are sole breadwinners of their families back in India and others concerned about the limited resources at their disposal in the face of mounting costs.
“We are working with individuals, self-help groups, associations and organisations to put in place mechanisms to help and guide stranded Indians on their concerns regarding accommodation, food and other matters. I am touched that a large number of individuals, help groups, associations and organisations have come forward to render help to Indians living in the UK,” said Ghanashyam.
Meanwhile, the British High Commission in New Delhi also warned against rumours as it finalises its plans to facilitate the return of UK residents spread around India who had been petitioning to be airlifted.
“We are aware of false rumours of flights circulating. Don’t get taken in by scams. We are working 24/7 to help and get British nationals home, details will be published on our social media channels and our Travel Advice page,” said the UK mission in Delhi.