Australian flight of grace bringing home travelers stranded in India due...

When Krish Mundru celebrated his fifth birthday last week, there was one wish he wanted more than anyone else: to see his mother again.

Important points:

  • Krish, who is with his grandparents in India, is unable to get a flight home due to COVID-19 lockdowns
  • His parents say he was not offered a seat on a return flight to Darwin, which lands today
  • One child who has been given a place is four-year-old Akrish Mishra, who has not seen his parents in Sydney for over a year

Krish is one of thousands of Australians trapped in India unable to return to live with his parents, Hari Mundru and Lakshmi Mandava, in Melbourne due to coronavirus bans and flight restrictions.

He has been living with his grandparents in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh since February while his parents tried to bring him home.

“It’s devastating,” said Ms. Mandava.

“It was his birthday last week and I asked him what he wanted for his birthday. He said to me, ‘I want a big surprise mother.’ I said, “What’s the surprise?”

“He said, ‘I want my mom as a big surprise.'”

Hari Mundru and Lakshmi Mandava have been separated from their son Krish for months because India suddenly blocked coronaviruses.(ABC News: Scott Jewell)

In the past few months, the only official flights from India to Australia were under an Air India repatriation program and they were flying at a fraction of capacity due to passenger restrictions in Australia.

The passenger limits were so restrictive that recent attempts by Australians to organize private charter flights have failed.

Krish’s parents had hoped he could board an Australian-sponsored official repatriation flight due to land in Darwin today, but they were not offered a chance to buy him a seat.

The Qantas flight to Darwin is one of eight flights organized by the Australian government from India, England and South Africa, with priority seating for “vulnerable” passengers.

It is expected that around 1,315 people will be brought home. Passengers can take out a government loan to pay for the tickets.

Everyone must be quarantined in Howard Springs, Northern Territory, before they can return home.

“We have to get our son back”

Krish’s parents spent months trying to find a flight home for their son, including on an Air India flight, but were unable to secure a ticket due to his age.

They also tried to buy an extra ticket for an employee to watch over him as they were told Air India had done it for other unaccompanied children. But they weren’t lucky.

“It’s really devastating,” said Mundru.

“We have nowhere else to go. We have to get our son back. “

DFAT was contacted to find out how many Australians in India were registered with the High Commission and how many passengers could secure a ticket on the final tranche of government-sponsored flights.

Some families are to be reunited with loved ones

One of those who managed to get a place was four-year-old Akrish Mishra, who has not seen his parents in Sydney for over a year.

A boy with brown hair and brown eyes is sitting in a blue car and smiling at the camera.

A boy with brown hair and brown eyes is sitting in a blue car and smiling at the camera.

Akrish visited his grandparents last year and has been stuck in India ever since.(Delivered)

Ms. Mishra left her son, who has a speech delay, with his grandparents in Delhi in October last year to receive speech therapy. He should be home in March.

Akrish’s grandparents were able to get a special visa to accompany him on the Qantas flight.

“It’s just the best feeling,” said his mother, Ash Mishra.

His parents say the past few months have been so unsettling that they installed a camera on Akrish’s grandparents so they could see him regularly.

“It was too hard for us to be without him,” said Ms. Mishra.

“Sleepless nights, no food, just remember him.”

A woman in a red shirt and black hair holds a young boy as they bend over to cut a cake

A woman in a red shirt and black hair holds a young boy as they bend over to cut a cake

Akrish Mishra’s parents say they had “sleepless nights” and wondered when they could see their boy again.(Delivered)

His father, Anu Mishra, said he was “very grateful” to the High Commission and the Australian Government for organizing the flights, but wished it had happened sooner.

He now hopes that other stranded Australians will get the support they need to get home.

“I wish everyone stuck there can come home and have a happy story like us,” Mishra said.

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