LONDON: As the UK prepares to fly seven charter planes to India next week to bring back Britons left stranded by the 21-day lockdown, former Labour MP Keith Vaz has called for a "humanitarian swap" by way of putting Indian nationals desperate to get back home on those very flights.
"We need a humanitarian swap. There are so many Indian nationals here, and they need to go back to India. What is the point of sending empty planes? This is a unique opportunity. We should take Indian citizens back to India," the Indian-origin MP, who represented Leicester East from 1987 to 2019, told TOI.
About 60 Indian students, mostly from Telangana, had camped in the visa section of the Indian High Commission in London in the hope of being evacuated. There are also other Indian travellers – including tourists and business people – stranded across the country since March 18, when India issued a travel advisory preventing even its own citizens in the UK from returning until March 31. Then came a temporary ban on inbound international passenger flights from March 26 to April 14.
In India, more than 20,000 UK nationals have been stuck since flights were suspended. The UK on Sunday announced seven charter flights to bring them back – part of a £75 million package announced last week. The first set of flights will bring Britons from Goa, Mumbai and Delhi between April 8 and 12.
Sonu Yugnath from Hyderabad, one of the students who had camped in the high commission, said: "If planes are going back to India, why cant they put us on them?"
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