297 Stranded Sudanese Returned Home from India with IOM assistance in July

Sunday, August 30, 2020

Khartoum – Last month, 297 stranded Sudanese nationals have safely returned home from India on two charter flights organised by the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

The returnees have been stranded for months due to travel restrictions imposed by the Government of India to slow the spread of COVID-19.

The first plane arrived from Mumbai on 26 July carrying 155 passengers on board, while a second carrying 142 passengers came from Hyderabad on 30 July. Repatriation flights were facilitated by IOM, in close coordination with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Embassy of Sudan in India, and the Embassy of India in Sudan, with the support of the Government of Switzerland.

Passengers were received at the airport by IOM Sudan Chief of Mission, Ms. Catherine Northing, and Director General of the General Directorate of Consulate Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, H.E. Ambassador Dr. Yasir Mohamed Ali.

“We are happy to welcome home those who have been stranded for months and to reunite them with their families,” said Catherine Northing, IOM Sudan Chief of Mission. “This assistance is a lifeline for many who found themselves stranded or in difficult living conditions and wished to return home but could not. IOM will continue to support the Government of Sudan in its efforts to safely bring home Sudanese nationals stranded abroad, especially those most vulnerable.”

Priority for repatriation flights has been given to the most vulnerable, including the elderly and those with underlying health issues. As India has become a major destination for Sudanese patients to receive medical treatment, a trend on the upswing over the years, many of those stranded in India were on a medical visa for treatment and identified as a high priority.

Among the passengers was Yahia Adam, a Sudanese national who travelled to Bangalore in February to accompany his father for medical treatment. Since the COVID-19 pandemic and closure of international borders, Yahia and his father were due to return to Sudan but found themselves stuck, running low on cash and without options to return home. 

“It was a very difficult time for us. My father completed his surgery and we were supposed to return back home when we received news of the border closure,” explained Yahia. “We are very happy to be home now, and grateful to IOM and the Government of Sudan for their support through this challenging journey.”

Due to the rapid closure of borders both globally and in Sudan as a result of COVID-19 mitigation measures, many Sudanese nationals outside the country have found themselves without options to return home. The Government of Sudan late June began facilitating the return home of the first of an estimated 15,000 Sudanese nationals stranded in over 22 countries around the world, with the majority in the Middle East, North Africa and Asia- many in urgent need of assistance.

IOM is liaising closely with the Government to support the repatriation of the most vulnerable while ensuring that public health measures are in place for the safety of passengers, and frontline staff. All passengers were tested for COVID-19 prior to their departure and will be required to follow protocols, including a 14-day mandatory quarantine.

IOM has supported the pre-departure and on-arrival medical services and health screenings, facilitated visas for passengers, provided hygiene kits including, face masks, hand sanitiser, and COVID-19 informational material as well as provided medical escorts for passengers requiring medical assistance en route.

Support for this for this activity was funded by the Switzerland State Secretariat for Migration (SEM).