More than 15,000 Canadian citizens stranded in India, including Liberal MP’s mom

And another group of snowbirds not having heeded the government’s response to return quickly but in fairness, the situation has and continues to evolve quickly:

More than 15,000 Canadian passport holders have registered with the Foreign Affairs Department as being stranded in India, and as of Tuesday, the federal government had no repatriation flights scheduled to get them out.

India has closed its airspace and imposed a 21-day lockdown, preventing people from leaving their homes. The new measures come after a spike in cases in recent days. Those who are stuck say the restrictions make it impossible for them to get to the airports in New Delhi and Mumbai.

“We’re frustrated, because we hear how the Canadian government is doing everything they can to get Canadians back, and I can tell you that that is not the case right now,” Ottawa resident Debbie Lavigne said Tuesday.

The federal government said Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne has been in touch with the Indian government and is working to bring people home, but the details of what is being done aren’t known.The 15,000 number does not account for citizens who have not registered or who are permanent residents — it is estimated there could be thousands more who are trying to return.

Lavigne, who is in Goa, India, said she and her daughter have been calling the Canadian Embassy in New Delhi non-stop and sending emails to Canada’s emergency watch and response centre — at sos@international.gc.ca — but have received no answers.

“We actually managed to get a live person, and they advised us to follow tweets and the news. We just need to be reassured to know that somebody is looking out for us,” she said.

Canadians flock to India in the spring

Spring is a time when thousands of Canadians head to India to visit family and friends, often staying for a month at a time, most typically in the Punjab region. Many of those travelling are elderly, and families at home are concerned about their health.

Ravi Gill, who is working tirelessly with a group of people in Surrey, B.C., to bring people home, said a lot of the older Canadians are insulin-dependent or on other medications but don’t have enough supplies beyond their planned return dates.

“They’re pretty much snowbirds,” Gill said. “Other people go to Arizona, Florida, but a lot of people in our community go to India. It’s difficult for our government to make choices, but we’re asking them to help.”

Gill is trying to lobby the government to do more, but every day, he says, he’s growing more frustrated. He questions why repatriation flights have been sent to other countries with far fewer Canadians stranded, but those in India have been left behind.

“There are young children in our family who are also stuck in India and are terrified at being locked into homes,” he said.

“They have witnessed police using sticks and pulling people off scooters to force them back home. This is a very traumatic experience for them.”

He’s collecting names and information and has started this Facebook page for people seeking help. Canadians are also advised to register with Foreign Affairs.

Surrey MP’s mom also stranded

Surrey-Newton Liberal MP Sukh Dhaliwal’s 80-year-old mother is among those stranded in India. Dhaliwal said he, too, is putting pressure on Champagne, but he doesn’t believe it will be easy to bring Canadians home any time soon.

“Because India has shut down the airfield, we are trying to get an access to the airfield, and also the prime minister has talked to the CEO of both airlines, Air Canada as well as WestJet.”Dhaliwal said those who are stuck may need to be patient and wait it out.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has made it clear the total country lockdown will be enforced.

“To save India, to save its every citizen, you, your family … every street, every neighbourhood is being put under lockdown. We will have to pay the economic cost of this, but [it] is the responsibility of everyone.”

Source: More than 15,000 Canadian citizens stranded in India, including Liberal MP’s mom

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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