June 19, 2021

PM rules out repatriation flights to bring NZers from India

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has ruled out any current plans for repatriation flights from India for stuck eligible NZers desperate to return as Covid cases continue to surge.

Travel ban from India has been lifted, but as most commercial flights are suspended or disrupted, there is little chance they can make it back, at least for now.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern found images coming from India “absolutely devastating” but has made it clear there were no plans for repatriation flights at this stage as was done last year.

PM, Ardern
Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern (File photo/NewsViews)

“We will keep watching what the situation is on the ground, what happens with those commercial flights, but at this stage, we don’t have plans to put in charter flights to bring people out,” she told RNZ’s Morning Report this morning.

“We cannot always guarantee that we can bring people back and we’re very clear about that in all the safe travel information.”

“We may not be able to go in and rescue people. They need to make sure they take every precaution they can even when they are travelling in desperate circumstances.

“Early on in the pandemic, we as a government did arrange charter flights in order to get as many citizens and permanent residents out of India, in order of about 3000,” she said.

PM emphasised flights suspension was temporary and related situation was fluid.

“It’s not entirely clear when those will restart because up until only a short time ago those (commercial) flights were available,” she added.

Deputy Prime Minister, Grant Robertson also confirmed this to Morning Report  while accepting that it is a very difficult situation.

“We’re fulfilling our responsibilities under the Bill of Rights to make sure that citizens and their families can return here but obviously this is a very difficult and challenging situation for people who aren’t citizens but want to come back here and we just encourage them to look at their options and find a way through,” he said.

Meanwhile, India saw a record single-day rise of 3,60,960 coronavirus cases, which pushed the total tally to 1,79,97,267, while the death count crossed 200,000 following 3,293 fresh fatalities, according to  a media report, quoting Health Ministry data.