Vande Bharat Phase II: MEA ropes in private airlines, opens land borders

Passengers onboard the Singapore-Mumbai flight, which landed on Monday. So far, around 4,000 Indians have been brought back under the Vande Bharat Mission. Photo: Twitter
India has a target to bring back 100,000 passengers from 60 countries by the end of Phase II of Vande Bharat Mission, said Ministry of External Affairs on Thursday. It said preparations for the third phase are well underway.

"Vande Bharat Mission (VBM) is in full swing. Phase I has been successfully completed from 7 May -16 May during which 16,716 stranded Indians returned. We are in Phase II of VBM from 17 May - 13 June," said MEA spokesperson.

The MEA spokesperson said as of today, 45,216 Indians have returned. These include 8,069 migrant workers, 7,656 students and 5,107 professionals.

"About 5000 Indians have returned through land border immigration checkpoints from Nepal and Bangladesh. A total number of 3,08,200 persons have registered their request with our Missions abroad for repatriation to India on compelling grounds," the spokesperson said.

During Phase II, a total of 429 Air India flights (311 international flights + 118 feeder flights) from 60 countries are scheduled to land in India.

According to MEA Spokesperson, the Indian Navy will be making four more sorties to bring back returnees from Iran, Sri Lanka and the Maldives. Private airlines have also been included as part of Phase II of Vande Bharat Mission and chartered flights have also begun to operate and return of our nationals through land borders has commenced.

The numbers are expected to go up in the coming days with the permission for chartered flights and more efficient use of quarantine capacity.

"We are also assisting the return of stranded Indians from remote locations in Latin America and the Caribbean, Africa, and parts of Europe. This is being done by taking advantage of foreign carriers flying to India primarily for the evacuation of their nationals. Recently, about 300 stranded Indians from Peru, Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, Portugal and Netherlands were brought in. We will be exploring more such options," said the spokesperson.

MEA is working in close coordination with its Missions abroad as well as various stakeholders - State Governments, MHA, MoHFW, MoCA, DMA, Air India and the Indian Navy - for these repatriation efforts.

MEA has designated Additional Secretary level officers to coordinate with State Governments on quarantine and other logistic issues.

On 26 May, the External Affairs Minister had a detailed review meeting of all stakeholders. The focus of the meeting was to ramp up the scale of Vande Bharat Mission and to enhance its efficiency.

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