India has so far brought back almost 24,000 of its nationals since it started a mission on 7 May to repatriate Indians stranded abroad due to the covid-19 pandemic, an official said Thursday.
In the second phase of a mammoth repatriation exercise codenamed “Vande Bharat" that started on 16 May, India expects to bring back its nationals from 47 countries on 162 flights, foreign ministry spokesman Anurag Srivastava told reporters.
“We have moved into the second phase of this mission from 16th May onwards. This phase will last till 13th June," he said adding: “In this phase, we are including places like Istanbul, Ho Chi Minh city, Lagos, etc and increasing flights to the US and Europe. We are also looking at developing Frankfurt as a hub."
In the first phase, the focus was bringing back Indians in the Gulf region. There were some 8-10 million Indians in Bahrain, Oman, Qatar, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates before the repatriation began. India had also sent some flights to the UK and the US too.
Till Thursday afternoon, India had repatriated 23,475 Indian nationals, Srivastava said adding that these included 4,883 workers, 4,196 students and 3,087 professionals besides others.
“We are also receiving our nationals stranded abroad on board flights from other countries which are coming in to evacuate nationals of those countries," he said.
Till now, some 259,001 Indians from 98 countries had registered to return home, Srivastava said.
“Most of those who have registered to return are workers" or about 28 % of the total. Almost 25% of the total were students, he said. The others were professionals – about 14.5% and tourists who made up more than 7%. Then there are others like fishermen, deportees and those granted amnesty, Srivastava added.