New Delhi: A Congress MP from Kerala has approached the Supreme Court seeking direction to the Centre to establish a specialised team to identify Indian citizens who are stranded in Gulf countries and require immediate evacuation amid the coronavirus pandemic.
M K Raghavan, a Member of Parliament (MP) from Kerala's Kozhikode constituency, has said in his plea that the Centre should also be directed to facilitate the evacuation of Indian citizens who cannot afford to travel back from Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) nations -- Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, and Oman.
The petition has further sought a direction to the government to grant specific approval to special flights to bring back these citizens since many of the stranded persons are desirous of returning to India at their own cost.
It said the government should be directed to depute medical team(s) to GCC nations to ensure that adequate medical assistance is provided to those "who are infected by COVID-19 with due regard to the laws and regulations of such nations".
The plea has also sought a direction to the concerned authorities to "ensure that the citizens who are not stranded in GCC nations are quarantined and provided all medical and health facilities" as prescribed by the World Health Organization (WHO).
The plea said many people from Kozhikode in Kerala, the petitioner MP's constituency, are working in foreign countries especially in GCC nations.
"The outbreak of COVID-19 has caused widespread disruptions in the lives of Indian citizens at home and abroad, especially those stranded in Gulf countries," it said.
"As a result of this, the petitioner (Raghavan) herein is being approached by several individuals and organizations to ensure the safe return and well-being of such Indians who are stranded in GCC nations in the absence of basic amenities; particularly those pertaining to essential healthcare requirements as well as household needs," the plea said.
It said Raghavan has contacted several airlines which have expressed their desire and willingness to ensure safe return of Indians stranded in GCC nations.
The plea said these nations have accorded their approval and assured their complete support for operation of flights to India to assist with the repatriation of stranded citizens.
"However, this proved to be futile as the Indian airspace has been shut since the outbreak of COVID-19. Therefore, Indians continue to be stranded despite several gracious offers being made by airline operators to assist their return from the GCC nations," it said.
The petitioner said he had made representations to the ministries of external affairs, civil aviation, shipping and Kerala government requesting urgent permission for operating chartered flights between India and GCC nations and take other appropriate measures to repatriate Indian citizens stranded there but no positive response was obtained.
On Friday, a separate plea was filed in the apex court seeking directions to the Centre to rescue and bring back Indian migrants stranded in the Gulf countries in the wake of the pandemic.