indica News Bureau-
Trying to take its citizens back to US from India, the government of USA is trying to make arrangements to airlift them because of the lockdown in India in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. There are more than 2000 American citizens stranded in India at the moment.
Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Ian Brownlee, Bureau of Consular Affairs on COVID-19, said that there were about 1,500 Americans in the New Delhi area, between 600 and 700 in the Mumbai area and 300 to 400 Americans elsewhere who have identified themselves, reported The Times of India.
Ian Brownlee, the official dealing with consular affairs, said on Friday: “We are working directly with both US and foreign carriers to lay on aircraft direct from India to the US,” to bring them back.
He said that the flights could start in about three days, but it’s the permit that is taking a while in both India and the US.
“We are working with a multiplicity of options here. There is a church group that has chartered a large aircraft. We are facilitating the necessary permits for that aircraft. They’re ready to take out 150 or so Americans. We are working directly with both US and foreign carriers to lay on aircraft direct from India to the United States,” he said during a briefing on March 27, Friday.
“The permitting is what’s complicated at the moment. We’re ready to act on this, but it’s the permitting that takes a while both in India and the United States. So we’re hopeful, and I think with the reason we are hopeful, that those flights will begin within about three days or so,” he added.
State Department’s “Repatriation Task Force” is trying to help get home Americans stranded due to coronavirus. There are about 13,500 US citizens abroad seeking assistance. The department says they had repatriated “over 9,000 people from some 28 countries.”
“We’re planning on another 66 flights over the next nine days or so,” said Brownlee . “We have some 9,000 people scheduled — identified for those flights and we hope to move those numbers up.”
“If you are a US citizen, and you are abroad at the moment, take a look at your circumstances, determine whether this is a place where you’d be willing to hunker down for an indeterminate period of time, as airspace and borders, etc., close down,” the senior official said.
“If you are somewhere where you think, ‘No, this is not where I would want to be over the long haul,’ take advantage of existing commercial opportunities and get out now.”
The official said they were “hesitant to give a guarantee” that they would be able to move every single person, noting “we’re hearing about people who are in very remote locations in very remote parts of the world.”
In a statement, Air Mobility Command said, “U.S. Transportation Command was directed today by the Secretary of Defense to assist the Department of State Repatriation Task Force in the contracting of aircraft to return Americans and lawful permanent residents stranded abroad due to travel restrictions imposed during the coronavirus pandemic.”
The statement further said, “the State Department will continue to prioritize requests for travel assistance, direct departure and arrival locations, and conduct medical screening.” USTRANSCOM will contract aircraft on behalf of the State Department and utilize the command’s existing transportation command and control system to efficiently manage the flow of aircraft.
The State Department requested assistance from the Department of Defense when the scale of the effort to repatriate Americans and lawful permanent residents strained the agency’s capacity.
“The combatant command is uniquely positioned to assist in the contract of commercial aircraft as it oversees the commercial carriers participating in the Civil Reserve Air Fleet, which transport thousands of Department of Defense personnel on a regular basis.” It added.
As soon as the news of the probable airlift came to fore, twitter users started commenting on the condition of Covid-19 pandemic in the US, saying that the American citizens were better off in India as the country still had lesser cased of COVID-19 than USA.
A twitter user Naveed wrote, “I think they are safer in India than back home in the USA. Still it’s their choice.”
Another user Somnath Benarjee wrote, “Leave them in India. They’re safer there from Corona”
A user JayPrakash Reddy raised a question in his tweet saying, “Why? India better than the USA in controlling corona as least deaths.”
“They are in safe hands here in India than in the USA!! Not a good idea to airlift them at this hour of troubles.” Hari Babu wrote.
Some twitter users appreciated the efforts of the US for making arrangements for its citizens in such a crucial time.
Last week, the State Department issued a “Level 4” travel alert advising its citizens not to travel internationally and asking those abroad to return home.
US State Department was tracking 33,000 citizens stranded abroad due to lockdowns and/or cancellation of flights who want help returning home.
Earlier this week, the State Department said 50,000 US citizens were stuck overseas but that number might have been an overstatement because of clerical errors, according to Brownlee.
Some Americans have decided to wait out the curfew or the quarantine where they are and many of them are expats with homes in the countries they are located in, he said.
Michael and Whitney Saville, who had traveled to India, to adopt a child are among several Americans who are stranded in the country.
The couple wanted to adopt a baby since they were in college. With three boys of their own, they decided to pursue their dream two years ago.
They traveled to India at the beginning of March to bring their adopted daughter Grace home.
After getting Grace’s passport, the were to return home on Thursday.
“They only gave us 48 hours’ notice,” WXIA-TV, an NBC-affiliated television station, quoted Whitney as saying.
“We actually tried to get Mike a ticket to go home and be with our other children. But everything was booked.”
Senator David Perdue’s office said they’ve been in contact with the couple and are working with the embassy. Perdue is a Republican from Georgia