Stranded Indian students protest outside Indian High Commission in London

Tuesday 24th March 2020 15:25 EDT

Thousands of Indian students in the UK are desperate to go back to India as they feel "unsafe" in London, UK’s epicentre of the coronavirus. However, the Indian government had announced a complete lockdown of the country including sealing its borders to international flights after India witnessed an increase in the number of coronavirus cases owing to students returning from international countries.

But students stranded in the UK are worried of the increasing number of cases in the UK and want to fly back to their family especially as the classes are being carried out online after schools and universities were shut. Some have even raised concerns around lack of proper accommodation as university hostels are shut or their private tenancy have come to an end. Recently, an Indian student arrived from Scotland, Glasgow and has spoken about self-isolating herself in her Kolkata flat from her family. Whilst she was thermally tested at the airport, and found to be Covid-19 negative Pooja (name changed upon request) spoke about how she was taking precautionary measures and self-isolating for 14 days. She said,

“I was pursuing my Msc in Glasgow and was fortunate to come to India before the country went into a total lockdown. I was tested both at the Bangalore and Kolkata airport and the test came out negative.

“I do not have any symptoms of the Coronavirus but for precautionary measures, I am self-isolating myself in my flat for 14 days where only my parents are allowed to come and drop me with food. They come wearing the masks and gloves and drop off food and leave. No one else is allowed in the flat. It has been a difficult last few days staying on my own but once it is over, I am glad I will be with my family once again!”

However, not everyone is fortunate. In the UK, hundreds of Indian students have protested at various airports demanding to go home. Students from Gatwick airport went to the Indian High Commission demanding to be sent back to India. After almost two days of staying put in the Indian High Commission premises, they have been moved into a hotel accommodation with food being provided by the High Commission.

Meanwhile, Indian Nationals Student Association has put together a team to "provide guidance and support to all students in the UK".

India has banned all international flights from March 18 till 31 amid a spurt in coronavirus cases. Despite the ban, however, some airlines allowed bookings for March 19-20. Many Indian students, who booked last-minute tickets, reached various airports in the UK and were stranded. They were asked to get a permission letter from the Indian High Commission to board a flight to India. High Commissioner of India to UK, Ruchi Ghanashyam, in a letter, appealed to all Indians residing in the UK to stay calm.

"I appeal to all Indians to stay calm and follow the advisory issued by NHS to address the challenge of Covid-19. Let us remain prepared to fight the challenge and not panic. Please avoid non-essential travel. At the moment, flights to India stand temporarily suspended till 31st March. High Commission remains in touch with the Indian authorities concerned. We will keep you all updated about the status.”

For any further queries, Indian students can get in touch with organisations such as National Indian Students and Alumni Union UK, Indian High Commission and Indian National Students Association UK.

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