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UK repatriates 16,500 nationals from India, nearly half of its global returnees


A British High Commission worker (R) distributes facemasks to passengers queuing before checking-in for a special flight to London at Sri Guru Ram Dass Jee International Airport on the outskirts of Amritsar on May 15, 2020. (Photo: NARINDER NANU/AFP via Getty Images)
A British High Commission worker (R) distributes facemasks to passengers queuing before checking-in for a special flight to London at Sri Guru Ram Dass Jee International Airport on the outskirts of Amritsar on May 15, 2020. (Photo: NARINDER NANU/AFP via Getty Images)

NEARLY half of globally repatriated Britons came from Indian cities, with 16,500 travellers flying back on 64 special flights so far.

The UK government said it undertook a “huge logistical operation” over the past 38 days to take home stranded British nationals from 32 locations across the length and breadth of India.

“The last currently scheduled charter flight left for London Heathrow from Amritsar today with over 300 passengers on board,” Jan Thompson, Acting High Commissioner to India, said on Friday (15).

“This unprecedented repatriation effort would not have been possible without the excellent support of the Indian government. Continued cooperation between our nations will be essential in the fight against this pandemic.”

The British High Commission in New Delhi described the repatriation process as a large and complex operation, with over 500 members of staff in India working around the clock to ensure flights operated smoothly and passengers could reach airports.

The strict lockdown in place across India meant it was vital to work hand-in-hand with the government of India and local authorities to transport passengers over large distances, the mission said.

“One British national stranded in a remote village in Manipur had to travel more than 2,700 km for their flight home from New Delhi,” it added.

Since the outbreak of coronavirus, the UK government has helped 1.3 million Britons from around the world return on commercial flights and organised special charter flights from 27 different countries and territories.

The British High Commission said that while there were no further planned UK government charter flights from India, the situation will be kept under review.

The flights were organised mainly for British nationals and where possible, seats were also allocated to vulnerable non-British UK residents with Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) and to other foreign nationals needing to get to the UK.