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MHA Issues Standard Operating Protocols (SOPs), For Movement Of Indians Stranded Abroad

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The Government of India through Ministry of Home Affairs on Tuesday has issued an order in which Standard Operating Protocols (SOPs), for movement of Indian Nationals stranded outside the country and of specified persons to travel abroad were provided.

The SOP says that in order to contain the spread of COVID-19 pandemic, international travel of passengers has been prohibited under MHA’s Orders related to lockdown measures and many Indian Nationals who had travelled to different countries before the lockdown, on various purposes such as employment, studies/ internships, tourism, business, etc., are stranded abroad. Due to their prolonged stay abroad, they are facing distress and are desirous of returning to India urgently, also apart from the above cases, there are other Indian Nationals who need to visit India in medical emergencies or death of a family member.

The following below are the SOPs for the Indians stranded abroad: –

  1. Such persons will register themselves with the Indian Missions in the country where they are stranded, along with necessary details as prescribed by MEA. 
  2. They will travel to India by non-scheduled commercial flights to be arranged by Ministry of Civil Aviation (MOCA); and, naval ships to be arranged by Department of Military Affairs (DMA). Only those crew and staff, who are tested COVID-19 negative, will be allowed to operate these flights/ ships.
  3. Priority will be given to compelling cases in distress, including migrant workers/ labourers who have been laid off, short term visa holders faced with expiry of visas, persons with medical emergency/ pregnant women/ elderly, those required to return to India due to death of family member, and students. 
  4. The cost of travel, as specified by MOCA DMA will be borne by such travellers. 
  5. Based on the registrations received, MEA will prepare flight/ ship wise database of all such travellers, including details such as name, age, gender, mobile phone number, place of residence, place of final destination; and information on RT-PCR test taken and its result. This data base will be shared by MEA with the respective State/ UT in advance. 
  6. MEA will designate State/ UT wise nodal officers, who will co-ordinate with the nodal officers designated for this purpose by the respective States/ UTS. 
  7. MEA will display with at least two days notice, the schedule (day, place and time of arrival of the incoming flight/ ship, on their online digital platform. 
  8. Before boarding, all travellers shall give an undertaking that they would undergo mandatory institutional quarantine for a minimum period of 14 days on arrival in India, at their own cost. 
  9. All travellers will also be required to give an undertaking that they are making the journey at their own risk. 
  10. At the time of boarding the flight/ ship, MEA will facilitate thermal screening as per health protocol. Only asymptomatic travellers would be allowed to board the flight/ ship. 
  11. Passengers arriving through the land borders will also have to undergo the same protocol as above, and only those who are asymptomatic will be enabled to cross the border into India. 
  12. Self-declaration form (with health and personal details) in duplicate will be filled in advance by all passengers coming from any point of entry, i.e., land, sea or airports, and a copy of the same will be given to Health and Immigration officials present at the airport/ seaport/ landport. 
  13. While on board the flight ship, the health protocol of MOCA/ DMA will be strictly followed. This would include wearing of masks, environmental hygiene, respiratory hygiene, hand hygiene etc. to be observed by airline/ ship staff, crew and all passengers. 
  14. On arrival, thermal screening, as per health protocol, would be carried out in respect of all the passengers by the Health officials present at the airport/ seaport/ landport. 
  15. All passengers shall be asked to download Arogya Setu app on their mobile devices. 
  16. The passengers found to be symptomatic during screening shall be immediately taken to medical facility as per health protocol. 
  17. The remaining passengers shall be taken to suitable institutional quarantine facilities, to be arranged by the respective State/ UT Governments. These facilities may be as far as possible, in the district headquarters, of the district to which the arriving passengers belongs. 
  18. These passengers shall be kept under institutional quarantine for a minimum period of 14 days. 
  19. If they test negative after 14 days, they will be allowed to go home and will undertake self-monitoring of their health for 14 more days as per protocol. The remaining persons will be shifted to the medical facility by the State/ UT Government.

Thereafter, the instructions were also provided for the for movement of persons stranded in India who are desirous to travel abroad in which it was said that only those persons shall be allowed to travel to the destination countries, who are citizens of that country; who hold visa of at least one year duration of that country; and green card or OCI card holder. In cases of medical emergency or death in the family, Indian Nationals holding six-month visa can also be allowed and before the tickets of such persons are confirmed, MOCA will ensure that the destination country allows entry of such persons in that country. The conditions, if any, imposed by the destination country, will have to be fulfilled by the person intending to travel.

-India Legal Bureau

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