COVID-19: Indian students including Keralites in Philippines, Malaysia plead for government mediation

Minister of External Affairs S Jaishankar tweeted offering help students in Malaysia and said that Air Asia flights have been arranged to Delhi and Vizag.

Published: 17th March 2020 10:32 PM  |   Last Updated: 17th March 2020 10:35 PM   |  A+A-

Passengers wait for their flight at the departure area of Manila's International Airport, Philippines on Tuesday

Passengers wait for their flight at the departure area of Manila's International Airport, Philippines on Tuesday. (Photo| AP)

Express News Service

KOCHI: Amid coronavirus scare, Indians, mostly Keralite students and their families, who are stranded in the Philippines, Malaysia and Italy airports, have pleaded immediate intervention from the Indian government to evacuate them at the earliest.

"We have been stranded at Manila airport since Tuesday afternoon. As our university canteen was closed, we have no other option but to come to India. Most airlines have cancelled their flights. The officials have given us an ultimatum to leave the country within 72 hours. The airport will be completely closed by March 20," said Anmy, one of the stranded students at Manila, in a video shared with TNIE.

The plight of Indian students comes in less than a week since the Indian government airlifted around 300 Indians, which also included a big contingent from Kerala.

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Anmy said that she feared that the Philippines may heading for a complete shutdown. "Even the public transport system is headed for a total closedown in the coming days. Though we tried temporary arrangements here, neither buses nor taxis are available. Many Kerala students have been stranded in Malaysia as well. The government has to intervene immediately," she said.  

In Italy, a group of over 100 Indians, mostly Keralites, are stuck in Rome, owing to the government stipulation of furnishing the COVID-19 negative certificate. Instead of the coronavirus negative certificate, the Indians will have to undergo mandatory 14-days-long quarantine once they reach India. The medical team who flew down to Italy had taken the specimen for the COVID-19 tests but the results are yet to be released, the students said.

"Situation is getting very grim here. The embassy officials are unreachable and we were expelled from the hotel room we have been staying as the embassy failed to pay the rent. They told us that we will be brought back after completing the coronavirus tests and will arrange the accommodation during the period. With the help of a few Malayali organisations, we were able to extend our stay here," said Saidas Sivadasan, a masters student at the University of Siena, Rome.

The Palakkad native has also added that they are not being able to return to their institutions as public transport has completely shut down there. "As public transport is completely closed, we don't have many options to go back to our universities. The NGOs who are trying to help us with food are being arrested by Italian police here," he added.

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Meanwhile, Minister of External Affairs S Jaishankar, in a tweet, said: "Appreciate the difficult situation of Indian students and other passengers waiting in transit at Kuala Lumpur airport. We have now approved Air Asia flights for you to Delhi and Vizag. These are tough times and you should understand the precautions. Please contact the airline."

Earlier, Rajya Sabha MP Elamaram Kareem submitted a letter regarding the issue of students in Italy to Jaishankar on Monday. "Around 90 students and others belonging to Kerala are in Rome and they are unable to fly back to India as Air India is not allowing them to board the aircraft since March 11. Unfortunately, the embassy's decision will come only after getting a COVID-19 negative certificate. Ministry should take necessary arrangements for their safe travel at the earliest," he wrote in the letter.

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