Coronavirus Pandemic

More repatriation flights needed from Gulf, says former Indian defence minister

Issac John /Dubai Filed on May 16, 2020
A.K. Antony, Indian defence minister, Covid-19 lockdown

Antony had also appealed to the government to bear the cost of repatriation of several thousands who are in deep financial distress.

A.K. Antony, former Indian defence minister, on Thursday made a plea for stepping up the frequency of repatriation flights from the Gulf to ferry tens of thousands of stranded expatriates who are in dire straits consequent to the Covid-19 lockdown.

Antony, who was also a three-time chief minister of Kerala, speaking to Khaleej Times from New Delhi, said he had also appealed to the Government of India to bear the cost of repatriation of several thousands who are in deep financial distress as a result of job losses and unpaid salaries.

"There are tens of thousands of NRIs across the GCC in extreme distress for various other reasons, including medical emergency and expiry of visas, who have registered with the Indian missions for evacuation. They include thousands of pregnant women, children and senior citizens requiring urgent airlift," said the veteran leader, who had served several terms in the federal cabinet, including two terms as defence minister in Manmohan Singh-led government.

Antony said he had written to India's External Affairs Minister Jaishankar, warning that if the evacuation flight frequencies continued at this slow pace, it would take more than a year to airlift hundreds of thousands of NRIs who are waiting to be repatriated from the Gulf region alone.

A current member of the parliament in the Rajya Sabha, Antony said he was getting desperate calls and mails daily from several overseas Indians, requesting his intervention.


Issac John

Editorial Director of Khaleej Times, is a well-connected Indian journalist and an economic and financial commentator. He has been in the UAE's mainstream journalism for 35 years, including 23 years with Khaleej Times. A post-graduate in English and graduate in economics, he has won over two dozen awards. Acclaimed for his authentic and insightful analysis of global and regional businesses and economic trends, he is respected for his astute understanding of the local business scene.

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