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Indians Stranded in Maldives Set to Sail Back Home Under ‘operation Samudra Setu’

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India on Friday began evacuating over 700 of its citizens by sea from the Maldives who were stranded in the scenic island due to the COVID-19-linked international travel restrictions.

The INS Jalashwa, the Indian Navy’s amphibious warship, reached Male on Thursday to undertake the massive repatriation mission named ‘Operation Samudra Setu’, the High Commission of India in the Maldives said.

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The first Naval ship from Male is expected to arrive at the Cochin Port on May 10, Port Trust officials in Kochi said.

The INS Jalashwa is part of the repatriation mission launched by the Indian Navy to bring Indian citizens home from foreign shores, the Indian Navy said in a statement.

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“It is a very great thing that the High Commission did for us and we did not have any issues till now. We got everything with proper guidelines, all the things done by the High Commission,” Pradeep, who hails from Palakkad, said. He works in a resort in Male.

“Jamsheed from Kerala thanks Govt of India, Govt of Kerala & @indiannavy for this historic Operation to repatriate #Indian nationals from the #Maldives,” the High Commission of India in Maldives tweeted.

The INS Jalashwa is properly equipped with relief materials, COVID-19 protection gear along with medical and administrative support staff, it noted.

The INS Magar, an amphibious warfare vessel of the Indian Navy, will also join the repatriation mission in Male as part of the efforts to bring back around 1,000 stranded Indian nationals to the Kochi port in Kerala over the next few days.

Amidst the coronavirus pandemic, India is conducting its biggest-ever repatriation exercise named Vande Bharat Mission to bring back stranded Indians from abroad, including from the US, the UAE, the UK.

The High Commission in Male on its Facebook page said MVR 600 or an equivalent amount of USD 40 will be charged as the Evacuation Services Charge from each person listed for repatriation by INS Jalashwa.

“This amount would be collected at the service fee collection counter after completion of the Immigration process at the Velana International Airport. Kindly carry exact change to avoid delay/ inconvenience,” the post said.

Meanwhile, all arrangements as per government guidelines are in place at Cochin Port to facilitate the arrival of those who are evacuated from the Maldives via the sea route, officials in Kochi said.

Before arrival at Cochin, on board the vessel, the Navy will get the self-e-declaration data filled by all passengers and also identify the passengers symptomatic of COVID-19.

The symptomatic passengers will be disembarked first, followed by other passengers (district wise) in batches of 50 persons, the Port Trust said.

Separate zone has been earmarked for the symptomatic patients.

The passengers disembarked will undergo further statutory verifications for clearances inside the Samudrika Cruise Terminal where Port Health Organisation will verify the self-declaration forms, the trust said.

All passengers on arrival in India will be medically screened and would have to download and register on the Aarogya Setu app.

The passengers, once cleared by all statutory organizations, will be transported to different districts in buses (30 per bus) arranged by the Regional Transport Officer.

On Monday, the Indian government announced plans to begin phased repatriation of its citizens stranded abroad from May 7.

On Thursday, two special flights from the UAE carrying a total of 363 Indian nationals, including nine infants, left for Kerala as India began its biggest ever repatriation exercise to bring back its citizens stranded abroad.

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