Around 13,500 British nationals stranded in India due to the coronavirus lockdown have been repatriated to their homes in the UK, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) said on Monday.
More than 30,000 British travellers have now returned to the UK on 142 special UK government charter flights from 27 different countries and territories since the outbreak of the coronavirus.
The 30,000th passenger returned home on a special charter flight from India's Amritsar city on Saturday evening.
“On top of the 1.3 million Britons we’ve helped return on commercial flights, we’ve now brought back 30,000 UK travellers from 27 countries,” said UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab.
“We remain tirelessly focused on helping the most vulnerable Brits around the world get back home safe and sound,” he said.
The FCO said it has been working around the clock with the airline industry and host governments across the world, with a 75-million pound fund for special charter flights to priority countries, focused on helping the most vulnerable travellers.
So far, charter flights have returned British nationals to the UK from countries ranging from India, Pakistan and Nepal to Bolivia, Bermuda and New Zealand.
India leads with 13,500 travellers returning so far since April 8, followed by 4,000 British nationals on 19 flights from Pakistan since April 20. Over 2,000 British nationals have returned from South Africa from April 9-17, more than 1,500 from New Zealand since April 25 and around 1,600 from Bangladesh since April 21.
In one case, British High Commission staff in India masterminded a 60-hour, 1,700-mile-long trip involving five different drivers and crossing seven states, even receiving a police escort at one point, to make sure a British citizen could take one of the special return flights to the UK.
The FCO said other efforts included a group of volunteers rescued from a remote part of Madagascar, climbers extracted from mountains in Nepal by British Gurkhas and backpackers reunited with their families after being flown home from South America.
“The FCO helped passengers return home by providing consular assistance, working with local authorities, local military teams and cruise operators to allow ships to dock. The FCO will continue to send charter flights to bring back vulnerable British nationals who have no other way to return to the UK,” the Foreign Office said.
A package of measures to support British nationals who are still waiting to return to the UK has also been put in place. The support package addresses financial issues, healthcare concerns and visa extensions, as well as loans for those who cannot afford flights to the UK where they have exhausted all other options.
Some UK residents are also using the Air India flights from different Indian cities laid on by the Indian government to fly back stranded Indians from the UK as part of the Vande Bharat Mission.