UK-based Indian students seek emergency travel options

Chennai: Indian student groups in the UK on Wednesday urged the Indian government to consider emergency travel options in extremely exceptional cases during the current suspension of air travel imposed contain a fast-spreading mutant strain of coronavirus detected in Britain.

As the Union Civil Aviation Ministry announced that the suspension will be extended by another week until 7 January, the groups sought some emergency intervention after being contacted by individuals desperate to get to India due to a family crisis or bereavement.

“I hope this time emergency travel arrangements can be made for Indian travellers with a family member critically ill or just passed away. I’ve seen first-hand the plight of those unable to travel due to bans, another just last week,” said Sanam Arora, Chair of the National Indian Students and Alumni Union UK (NISAU-UK), a representative group for Indian students in the UK.

NISAU-UK has also issued an advisory for Indian students hoping to start an academic term in the New Year and confirmed that under UK Home Office rules, their applicability for the new Graduate or post-study work visa will not be impacted.

While a majority of Indian students had managed to fly out of the UK for what is a customary Christmas and New Year holiday period, a handful of them were caught out by the cancellation of the India-UK air bubble arrangement from 22 December, after England recorded a worrying spike in coronavirus cases as a result of a new highly-transmissible variant of the deadly virus.

“As per our analysis, around 70-78 per cent of students who had planned to go to India for Christmas break had already left for India before 22 December. The remaining students, till date, are not reporting any serious concerns due to the travel ban or a possible extension,” said Prerit Souda, spokesperson for the Indian National Students Association (INSA) UK.

“Students who were planning to return to the UK for January intake or next-session are taking a wait and watch approach with possible travel by mid or late January if the travel ban is removed. There have been two cases that have come to our attention wherein a family crisis had created a need for emergency travel. We have passed on these cases to relevant authorities,” he said.

The Indian High Commission in London said that it is on standby for any ‘emergency visa’ requirements.