Three flights, part of the second phase of India's massive repatriation drive dubbed Vande Bharat Mission, arrived in Kerala on Friday bringing over 500 Indians stranded in various countries in the aftermath of the coronavirus outbreak.
A Bahrain-Thiruvananthapuram flight landed in the state capital at 8:55pm, another Muscat-Kannur flight landed in Kannur at 8pm, and a Dubai-Kochi arrived at the Cochin airport by 9:40pm.
On Saturday, six flights are set to arrive in Kerala. A Dubai-Thiruvananthapuram flight will depart at 1:45pm and will land in the state capital at 7:25pm, Muscat-Kochi flight will depart at 1:45pm and arrive at Cochin airport at 6:50pm, Abu Dhabi-Kannur flight will depart at 2:30pm and arrive in Kannur by 8pm, Dubai- Kozhikode flight will depart at 3:10pm and arrive in Kozhikode at 8:40pm, Muscat- Thiruvananthapuram will depart at 3:45pm and arrive in Thiruvananthapuram at 9:05pm and Singapore-Kochi flight will depart at 7:45pm and will arrive at Cochin airport at 9:55pm.
On Thursday, three flights brought over 500 Indians from the Gulf to Kerala.
Second phase of Vande Bharat Mission to continue till June 13
The government on Thursday said its mega mission to evacuate stranded Indians from abroad will continue till June 13 and the extended phase will cover 47 countries.
The second phase of the 'Vande Bharat Mission' was to end on May 22.
However, External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said the ongoing phase will last till June 13 and that India is looking at making Frankfurt a hub for the mission.
As of Thursday afternoon, a total of 23,475 Indian nationals were brought back home under the mission which began on May 7.
"We are looking to bring back our nationals from 47 countries on 162 flights. In this phase, we are including places like Istanbul, Ho Chi Minh city, Lagos etc and increasing flights to the USA and Europe," Srivastava said at an online media briefing.
"We are also receiving our nationals stranded abroad onboard flights from other countries which are coming in to evacuate nationals of those countries. We are bringing back our nationals from far flung areas like Argentina, South Africa, Peru, Mongolia," he added.
A total of 2,59,001 people registered to return from 98 countries.
"Operations under this very large and complex exercise are going on smoothly. The ministry and its missions are working very closely in this whole of government exercise with the Ministries of civil aviation, home affairs, health and family welfare, bureau of immigration as well as with concerned state governments," he said.
Private airlines may be involved in third phase of the evacuation mission after June 13, officials said.
As per the government's policy for evacuation, Indians having "compelling reasons" to return like pregnant women, elderly people, students and those facing the prospect of deportation are being brought back home.
The government launched the 'Vande Bharat Mission' on May 7 to evacuate Indians stranded in various countries due to coronavirus-related restrictions. Under the phase one of the mission, the government has evacuated a total of 12,000 Indians from the Gulf region as well as countries like the US, the UK, Philipines, Bangladesh, Malaysia and the Maldives.