Coronavirus: Kerala group files petition asking New Delhi government to get stranded citizens home

At least 10,000 Indians from Kerala state are in the UAE and hoping to fly back

Volunteers from the Kerala Muslim Cultural Centre in Abu Dhabi get ready to distribute food to people in Abu Dhabi. Courtesy Kerala Muslim Cultural Centre
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A Dubai welfare group has filed a High Court petition urging the Indian government to permit chartered flights to evacuate thousands of its citizens in the UAE.

The petition was filed on Thursday by the Kerala Muslim Cultural Centre and lawyers are hopeful the case will be heard in India on Saturday.

India is currently under lockdown until April 14, and scheduled international commercial flights have been halted.

Haris Beeran, a lawyer representing the petitioners, said an estimated 10,000 people from India’s southern Kerala state were keen to return home.

"The [Indian] government has a duty to bring back Indian citizens stranded abroad

"We know of 10,000 people just from Kerala who want to come back home," he told The National.

“Many workers no longer have jobs [and] some people are on visit visas that have expired.

"They don’t have any means to live in the UAE and would rather return to their family at this time.”

The petition specifies various categories of Indian citizens who have approached the organisation for help, including elderly parents of UAE residents who require medical attention.

The application called on India’s federal government and the Civil Aviation Ministry to permit repatriation flights as the country’s national carrier Air India has already been allowed to evacuate German, British and Canadian citizens during the lockdown.

“Many Indians are running out of money and facing shortages of food,” the petition said.

“Article 21 of the Constitution of India demands such citizens be brought back to their country to alleviate their suffering.”

Mr Beeran said all returning passengers could be subjected to quarantine in India.

“The government has a duty to bring back Indian citizens stranded abroad,” he said.

"They can be subjected to quarantine, medical protocols and reasonable restrictions on movement but to ban Indian citizens from returning to their homeland violates the Constitution of India.”

Indian charity groups along with volunteers, diplomats and local and federal authorities have organised food drives across the UAE to reach workers and families left with no salaries after shops and malls shut to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

At least 20 Indian travellers are believed to be stranded in Dubai and Abu Dhabi airports after New Delhi shut down on March 22 as part of efforts to contain the disease.