Over 2.3 lakh Indians have been repatriated from Saudi Arabia during the coronavirus pandemic, according to a top Indian diplomat.
A total of 2,32,556 Indians returned home through 1295 special flights that operated to India following the suspension of regular flights between the two countries, said Dr. Ausaf Saeed, India’s Ambassador to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, on Friday.
Addressing a press conference, the ambassador said that 1295 flights operated from Saudi Arabia that included 276 Vande Bharat Mission flights and remaining were charter flights for the repatriation.
The repatriation of deportees, from jails and deportation centers after completing their sentences, is different from the regular repatriation process, he said. So far, 2200 such people repatriated back home with the cooperation of the department of military affairs for their quarantine facility upon arrival, he added.
Dr. Saeed revealed that India is working closely with Saudi Arabia to have an air bubble agreement that can facilitate the return of stranded NRIs of Saudi Arabian visa from India to Saudi.
He emphasized that the travel ban on India by Saudi Arabia required to be reviewed as COVID-19 cases per capita in India is much less compared with its population and preventive measures.
Dr. Saeed said so far 2158 Indians died in Saudi Arabia, including 850 with COVID-19.
Welcoming proposed Saudi labour reforms, the ambassador hoped that labour disputes would drop to some extent. The fresh recruitment from India is being linked through an e-migrate scheme that ensures contractual obligation between employee and employer.
“Saudi Arabia and India agreed to have proper contractual obligations during PM Narendra Modi’s visit to Saudi Arabia”, he said.
Dr. Saeed also said that both countries are working in the field of higher education and health care. He revealed that opening of campuses of IIT Delhi and Indian School of Business of Hyderabad in Saudi Arabia is on cards.
India is also working to establish Indian Cultural Centre in Riyadh, he said. The ongoing virtual Yoga classes would be converted into physical form soon by maintaining social distance norms, according to him.
Highlighting growing relations between the two countries, the ambassador said that joint working groups involving trade, investment and industries sector have been meeting regularly.
India and Saudi Arabia both are keen to strengthen bilateral cooperation in the health sector.
Dr. Saeed revealed that passport and consular services were expanding as ease of COVID-19 restriction. 82,270 passport related services being provided in the country.
He said Indian missions working to have permanent passport service centers in different parts of the Kingdom.
Regarding Haj, the ambassador said that India didn’t receive any formal information regarding modifications in view of the pandemic.
Diplomats Y.Sabir, Sahil Sharma, Dr. Aleem, Hamna Mariam and Ritu Yadav also briefed about their services.