By Sajeev K Peter
KUWAIT: 234 Indians, detained in deportation centers here, heaved a sigh of relief as the Kuwait government flew them home free of charge yesterday on two Kuwait Airways flights. However, more than 10,000 Indians who obtained amnesty as part of the government program, are still waiting to be taken home.
According to sources, the repatriation of the Indian workers who obtained amnesty is expected from next week onwards as the India government has opened its airspace enabling Kuwaiti flights to land in its airports.
“Two Kuwait Airways flights carrying 117 people each took off to Indore, Madhya Pradesh state, today. Though they are from 20 different Indian states, they will be accommodated in a quarantine center in Indore now and will be moved to their respective home states once they complete their quarantine period,” he said. The expats, who were detained in the deportation centers for an unspecified period of time for various reasons, appeared excited. “We are very happy and excited to go home. I am going to see my people after 6 years,” said one of the passengers on condition of anonymity, who spoke from the Kuwait airport over the phone.
The embassy official said the repatriation of the people who are currently held in amnesty shelters will also start soon. The embassy is doing the state-wise segregation of the people so that Kuwait Airways can schedule the destination airports accordingly, the official added.
According to estimates, more than 5,000 Indians with valid passports, but without valid residency, availed amnesty offered by the government. Another 5,000 plus people, who obtained emergency certificates from the embassy, are expected to clear the hurdle.
In an unprecedented initiative, the Kuwait government had offered amnesty-seekers free passage and airfare to their home counties as part of the program that aimed to purge the country of illegal residents. While a few countries allowed the repatriation of their citizens to their countries, Indian workers remained in amnesty shelters as the India government kept its airspace closed for foreign airlines until last week in a bid to contain COVID-19 pandemic.
The amnesty program for people in the country without residency permits ran from April 1 to April 30, 2020 allowing violators to leave the country without paying any fines. As part of the program, the government has announced that it would forgo all residency-related penalties of the amnesty-seekers and offered a 30 percent waiver on all other debts or fines incurred by them. According to official estimates, there were around 24,400 illegal Indian residents in Kuwait as of Feb 28, 2020.