The Ministry of Home Affairs has allowed around 7,000 Indian seafarers/crew employed on cruise ships and stranded across the globe to return home on repatriation flights run by Air India.
The permission followed a Shipping Ministry request in this regard. The seafarers and their families have been pushing the government to facilitate this task.
Shamim Ahmad, Under Secretary (Immigration), Ministry of Home Affairs, in a May 13 office memorandum wrote : “It is requested that Ministry of Shipping may ensure that all these 7000-odd Indian seafarers/Indian crew members are duly registered on the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) Web Portal meant for such stranded Indians in need of repatriation. The nearest Indian Mission may put them in the appropriate repatriation flight as provided in the MHA standard operating procedures (SOP) dated 5 May 2020.”
“The Competent Authority in the MEA is also requested to consider the matter so that the aforementioned SOP is followed in letter and spirit especially regarding post landing screening and quarantine facilities in coordination with the State Governments concerned,” it added.
Thousands of Indians employed on cruise ships were stranded across the globe after the coronavirus outbreak forced their owners to suspend services. Their repatriation to India has generated much heat among the seafaring community, more so due to the suspension of international flights into the country, closing a key mode for their homecoming.
Cruise line owners had offered to evacuate the Indian crew on chartered flights as was done in the case of Indonesian and Philippines crew, but a government wary of easing the international travel restrictions to combat the pandemic, refused to budge.
Since April 24, two cruise liners – Marella Discovery and Seven Seas Voyager – travelled to India just to drop off 313 crew stuck on board.
Source: The Hindu Business Line