A “humanitarian” repatriation operation to facilitate 272 stranded Indians took place on 1 August 2020 from Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam.
The Eindhoven based non-profit Indian groups TANE, Shrigandha, Tamil Sangham and Netherlands Marathi Mandal, in collaboration with the Indian Embassy in the Netherlands, fulfilled this mission. These groups also have a presence all over The Netherlands.
The outbreak of the pandemic and the announcement of closed borders in March 2020 stranded many visitors in the Netherlands. Although the Indian government did facilitate repatriation flights for these visitors, not all were able to avail the facility. Besides that, for many people, the situations were quite precarious.
For example, the sudden death in a family, emergency medical issues, travel concerning elderly people, students, and employees who lost their jobs due to the COVID-19 outbreak. The need was immense, and so the Indian community in Eindhoven approached the Indian Embassy for help in this regard. The Indian Embassy offered to facilitate a community chartered flight.
First budget flight
The above mentioned groups came together in a rare move, mobilizing their community representatives. Guided by the Indian Embassy, they successfully arranged the first-ever community chartered flight from Amsterdam to Bengaluru and Hyderabad, operated by SpiceJet airlines.
The passengers were from Eindhoven, Amsterdam, Utrecht as well as from Belgium, Germany, Serbia, and France. An outsourced travel agency managed the booking procedure. Other than that, it was a routine flight, following normal immigration and customs procedures at the airport.
The Indian Embassy worked on arranging the necessary permissions and guided the entire project. Skanda Travels helped in ticket administration. The volunteers team consisted of- Srini Ippili, Syam sundar Pampana, Jayaprakash BK, Ayyappan Chandran & Akshay Mahashabde.
Although at the moment, there’s no plan to facilitate a next flight, if the need arose, it could be done again.
A report by Chaitali Sengupta, who gives ONLINE Inburgering classes.