More than 15,000 Canadian passport holders have registered with the Foreign Affairs Department as being stranded in India, and the federal government has made it clear that there are no repatriation flights scheduled to get them out.
India has closed its airspace and imposed a 21-day lockdown, preventing people from leaving their homes. The new measures come after a spike in cases in recent days. Those who are stuck say the restrictions make it impossible for them to get to the airports in New Delhi and Mumbai.
The federal government said Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne has been in touch with the Indian government and is working to bring people home, but the details of what is being done aren’t known.
The 15,000 number does not account for citizens who have not registered or who are permanent residents — it is estimated there could be thousands more who are trying to return.
Many Canadian seniors head to India to visit family and friends in March especially those with roots in Punjab.
Ravi Gill, who is working tirelessly with a group of people in Surrey, B.C., to bring people home, said a lot of the older Canadians are insulin-dependent or on other medications but don’t have enough supplies beyond their planned return dates.
Gill is trying to lobby the government to do more, but every day, he says, he’s growing more frustrated. He questions why repatriation flights have been sent to other countries with far fewer Canadians stranded, but those in India have been left behind.
He’s collecting names and information and has started this Facebook page for people seeking help. Canadians are also advised to register with Foreign Affairs.
Surrey-Newton Liberal MP Sukh Dhaliwal’s 80-year-old mother is among those stranded in India. Dhaliwal said he, too, is putting pressure on Champagne, but he doesn’t believe it will be easy to bring Canadians home any time soon.