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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - By Hassan Cheruppa
JEDDAH — Saudi Arabia has repatriated as many as 1945 Indian deportees during the current period of temporary suspension of the international flight service following the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic. Saudi Arabian Airlines operated a number of services to various destinations in India as part of a major joint initiative undertaken by the Saudi and Indian authorities to repatriate the stranded deportees.
The deportees, mostly released prisoners, thanked the Saudi and Indian authorities for the noble humanitarian gesture. They specially lauded the intensive efforts made by the Indian mission in the Kingdom, headed by Ambassador Dr. Ausaf Saeed, to facilitate the procedures of their repatriation after removing the bottlenecks caused by the disruption of flight service in the pandemic situation.
A Saudia flight, carrying 362 deportees on board, left Riyadh on Wednesday for New Delhi. This was the fifth flight of the second batch of deportees, who included 211 and 151 persons from deportation centers of Riyadh and Jeddah respectively. With this, the total number of repatriated deportees has reached 1945.
Earlier on Oct. 6, Saudia operated two flights to New Delhi and Lucknow, carrying second batch of deportees. The current process of repatriation of deportees in the pandemic period began in May, with sending 421 deportees back home, 214 from Riyadh and 207 from Jeddah.
The Indian mission officials are currently working on repatriating the limited number of the remaining deportees. They will be repatriated most probably in the coming week. The Mission appreciated cooperation extended by Saudi authorities, including Saudi Arabian Airlines, the General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA), as well as the state governments of Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Telangana.
The repatriation of deportees follows big efforts being made by Ambassador Dr. Ausaf Sayeed to resolve the issues of Indians remaining in Saudi deportation centers and that is in coordination with the Saudi authorities and India’s Ministry of External Affairs ever since the suspension of flights in March this year.
The Indian Mission in Riyadh and the Consulate General in Jeddah are closely coordinating with agencies in Saudi Arabia and India to repatriate the remaining deportees, mainly released prisoners, at the earliest. Due to uncertainty of flights and COVID-19 health protocols, including mandatory quarantine and PCR requirements, coordination between several departments, both in India and Saudi Arabia, is required.
The embassy sources urged to contact its Community Welfare Attaché for any inquiries or assistance related with this issue at +966 544166151or at [email protected]
Meanwhile, the Indian Mission is operating a total of 32 flights in phase 7 of the Vande Bharat Mission (VBM), launched by India’s federal government. Two of these flights left Jeddah and Dammam on Wednesday and three are leaving from Jeddah, Riyadh and Dammam on Thursday. The Indian Mission has made arrangements for its nationals who have registered with the Embassy to directly buy flight tickets online or personally from Air India offices in Jeddah, Riyadh and Al-Khobar.
No prior appointment needed at VFS outposts
The Indian Consulate General in Jeddah announced that it has decided to do away with the system of prior appointments for rendering passport services at its outsourcing VFS outposts in Abha, Yanbu and Tabuk. “Applicants can now approach the aforementioned VFS centers for availing passport services without prior appointment,” the consulate said in a press statement.
It also announced that the Mohammadiyah branch of VFS center in Jeddah was closed from Oct. 15 while the VFS center in Jeddah’s Hail Street will continue to provide services on an appointment basis from 8:00 am till 3:00 pm. Applicants having emergency can approach the Hail Street center for submitting their passport applications without prior-appointment on any working day from Sunday to Thursday between 3:00 pm to 5:00 pm.
The consulate said that these measures are being taken to streamline passport processes and to make them more user-friendly. However, the Consulate would continue to review the situation and may revert to previous system of offering appointment-based services in case of any unexpected rush by applicants at VFS outposts or at Hail Street center, the statement added.
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