Charter operators await approval to bring home New Zealanders

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Venkat Raman

Venkat Raman

Auckland, May 14, 2021

Charter operators await approval to bring home New Zealanders 

Image from Auckland International Airport Facebook

 

New Zealand Indians, holding New Zealand passports are disparate to return home, all of them saying that the situation in India is scary.

The exact number of persons stranded in India is not known but an official told us that there were about 500-600 New Zealand citizens.

“The government has approved the travel of eligible dependents of New Zealand citizens and hence the total number of people could be about 1200,” he said.

Health Ministry review

One operator is understood to have received approval to operate a charter flight subject to ratification by the Ministry of Health. His application is currently under scrutiny.

We have been receiving an increasing number of phone calls, emails and text messages from New Zealander Indians in India demanding immediate action by the government to bring them back home.

Disparate to return

“I have aged parents in New Zealand and hence I am eager to return home. I came to India in March 2021 to see my ailing brother. I am really worried not only about my parents but also afraid of the Covid situation in India,” Abhishek said from Mumbai.

Satyanarayana, who lives in South Island rushed to India two months ago to see his ailing father who died a day after his arrival. He had obtained his citizenship shortly before his departure to India.

“My employer has told me that if I do not return before the end of May (2021), I stand the risk of losing my job. My problem is the MIQ voucher without which I cannot board an aircraft. I have already changed my flight twice at substantial cost. I want my government to look after me. I am a New Zealand citizen,” he said.

Radio New Zealand and Newstalk ZB contacted me on Friday, May 14, 2021 to ask about repatriation flights.

Migrants protest in New Delhi demanding right to return to New Zealand (Source: Facebook)

 

Charterers ready

RNZ quoted me as saying that travel agencies (to whom I had spoken) were ready to go.

“They as ready as anyone can expect. One of them told me that they will be ready for repatriation flights by the end of May; but it all depends on the government regulations. He said that pressure on the government to make a decision on charter flights was building. I would suggest that the government might (soon) go into a more serious stage of consultation on approving these kinds of charter flights.”

Multicultural New Zealand organised a community meeting in Wellington on Thursday night to discuss the issue of operating charter flights from India.

Roundabout journey

Following is a Radio New Zealand Report:

It quoted Gurtej Singh, who was at the meeting as saying that some people were managing to leave, but it was not easy.

“I know one case where he had to fly to London, then to North America and from there made his way to Auckland. Commercial airlines remain uncommitted to recommencing flights. I therefore want a targeted effort from our authorities to arrange charters from India to New Zealand,” he said.

Gurtej said that would be the best solution.

“I think that the word should go out from the High Commissioner that there would be a charter flight, and then people could register their interest,” he said.

Registered Travellers

According to RNZ, there are 664 registered New Zealand travellers in India.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade said the actual number was unrecorded – but much higher. As I had emphasised, we need to know the actual number of New Zealand citizens in India who are keen to return to New Zealand, so that charter flights can be organised accordingly.

Multicultural New Zealand President Pancha Narayanan said that charters must be operated and that no one was expecting the government to pay for them.

“Organising flights is urgent, and the community is quite clear that people expect to pay for their travel,” he said.

Indeed, the cost factor is now becoming a little irrelevant.

People from India are happy to pay whatever it takes to come back. New Zealand is the safest country in the world.

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