Travel bans begin to bite Indians abroad

COVID-19 International Top Story Travel

Fear being stuck, unable to return to where they work

Indians living abroad as temporary residents are afraid of returning to India fearing they will be stuck owing to the Covid-19 restrictions imposed across the world.

“It has been two years since I saw my parents. I don’t know when I will be able to see them,” Nikitha Mendu, an Indian citizen studying in Australia, informed The Observer.

Australia is one of the countries that have imposed strict travel restrictions. Australian Prme Minister Scott Morrison has even threatened Australian citizens stuck in India with jail terms and fines if they return to Australia.

Harish Reddy, a temporary resident in Australia, said: “Some of my friends, in a hurry, went back to India, and now Australia is not letting them come back. They have no jobs in India. I would rather prefer staying here.”

But Harish is worried about not being able to go back to Australia again.

The US is another country to have imposed a travel ban. The Biden administration, on April 30, announced restrictions on travel from India to prevent the mutated Covid-19 virus variants from entering the country. 

The US decision has scared many Indian citizens living in the US. 

Mahesh Kumar, who is in the US on an H-1B visa, shared: “I can’t afford to get stuck in India and lose my job. I have been following the news. It’s terrifying. My parents tested Covid positive. I wanted to go and see them, but could not.” 

The major problem for Indian citizens is that they do not have the option to go back to the countries where their livelihood is.

Uttishtha Prasanna, who lives in the UK with her family, said she conceived during the time of Covid and has given birth to a baby. “Who doesn’t want to celebrate these moments with their families, but what option do I have?”

She said she is struggling to take care of the baby. Although she wants to go back home, the UK has added India to its red list of countries and suspended all flights coming from India.

Covid-19 has economically impacted countries and individuals. The prospect of going to India leaving their work is scaring people. Listening to the stories of people who are stuck in India is adding to their fears.

Gayathri Mallaku completed her education in Australia. Just before the Covid-19 first wave began, she came to India and is stuck here. “There is no way I can go back anytime soon. It’s all confusing. I am unable to make any decisions. I am just waiting for the pandemic to end and go back to Australia.”

An official from the Ministry of External Affairs who did not identify himself on the phone informed The Observer: “We are operating flights under the Vande Bharat Mission. People who are willing to come to India can come via these flights.”

Experts have advised people not to travel amid the pandemic unless there is an emergency. 

Pradeep Enagala, a principal consultant at Global Degree Counsellors, said: “Tickets are expensive and countries have tightened their immigration policies. It is not advisable to travel until the pandemic comes to a standstill.”

It is uncertain how long the travel restrictions will continue and when the pandemic will come to an end. It is not just the decision of India alone that will impact people stuck in India, but also decisions of countries that have imposed travel bans to and from India.


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