Govt asks India for permission to pick up stranded Kenyans
Kenya says it has formally asked the Indian government to allow stranded Kenyans to assemble at one point for a planned repatriation flight.
On Wednesday, Kenya’s High Commissioner to India Willy Bett told the Nation that he expects the India government to allow Kenyans scattered in the country to travel freely to new Delhi for a planned Kenya Airways flight on May 8.
Most of them, according to information at the Kenyan Mission, are in New Delhi, Chennai in Tamil Nadu, Hyderabad in Telangana, and Bangalore in Karnataka. Others are in Ahmedabad in Gujarat and Mumbai.
The diplomat said the Mission will organise transportation to Delhi and will announce pick-up locations later.
The Indian government has imposed travel restrictions between cities in a bid to lower infection rates for the Covid-19.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi extended a 21-day lockdown till May 3 but it wasn’t clear if the restrictions will be extended.
In case India extends it, Mr Bett said, his Mission asked authorities in India to give Kenyans who bought tickets for the flight special permission to travel from May 1.
The idea is to have them assemble in New Delhi, he said, so that the KQ flight can repatriate them.
KQ required at least 200 passengers to sign up for the “chartered” flight, but the government described it as an arrangement with KQ to help Kenyans willing to pay but stranded to come back home.
On Wednesday, the tickets for that flight were being sold from Sh85, 894 for business class and Sh45,635 for economy.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in a notice sent to Kenyans on April 28 via Kenya’s High Commission in Delhi, confirmed an arrangement to fly some 223 Kenyans caught up in the lockdown.
“The planned flight will depart from Mumbai on May 7, 2020 at 1200 hrs,” the diplomat told the Nation.
“This is neither an evacuation nor a repatriation but simply a facilitation to help stranded Kenyans get home. Tthat is why they have to pay.”
An investigation by the Nation found that at least122 Kenyan patients were ready and willing to pay for tickets.
Data from the commission indicated that over 1000 Kenyans registered last week when a notice was put up but that only 22 indicated their wish to return home.
“Some have fallen sick again due to the lengthy stay and the circumstances and have been re-admitted,” said Jecinter Hezron, a Kenyan who took her mother to India for treatment and is the spokesperson of a group of over 100 Kenyan patients stranded in Bengaluru, Karnataka State and other parts of India.
Agnes Kavovi Kalii Kiminza, 51, who underwent chemotherapy, surgery and radiation at CyteCare Cancer Hospital in Bangalore, said she was overjoyed by news of the flight.
She planned to fly home on April 7 but wasn’t able to due to the lockdown .
“The timely intervention and genuine concern about our well-being is evident. We are proud Kenyans … I received the notice with great joy … It was like a breath of fresh air,” she said.