London, Mar 22 (PTI) India's envoy in the UK on Sunday called on Indian citizens stranded in Britain due to the travel restrictions back home to fight the coronavirus pandemic and act responsibly during these 'trying times'.
High Commissioner Ruchi Ghanashyam sought to reassure Indians worried about their immigration status due to expiring visas, saying that the Indian authorities have been in contact with their UK counterparts, who have said that no one will be 'unfairly penalised' for events beyond their control as a result of COVID-19.
'I appeal to all Indian citizens to stay calm and follow the advisory issued by the NHS (National Health Service) to address the challenge of COVID-19. Let us remain prepared to fight the challenge and not panic,' Ghanashyam said in a statement.
She said that while flights to India remain suspended until March 31, the mission is in constant communication with the Indian authorities and will communicate any change to the travel advisory as soon as possible.
'The FCO (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) has conveyed to us: 'The Home Office is working urgently on guidance for Indians and those of other nationalities in the UK whose visas are due to expire but are currently unable to leave due to the impacts of COVID-19.
'While that work is ongoing, foreign nationals in the UK do not need to be concerned about their immigration status,' the statement said.
The High Commission urged all Indian nationals to follow the NHS and Public Health England advice on social distancing and other safety precautions, such as frequent washing of hands to help combat the spread of the deadly virus.
'These are trying times. We should stand strongly together wherever we are and help each other,' said Ghanashyam, as she thanked diaspora groups and organisations offering their assistance to stranded Indians in the UK.
'Our strong resolve to stand together, help each other and strictly follow the advice of local health agencies will help the world come out of this challenge. Together we will emerge stronger,' she said.
The message came as at least 19 Indian students camped out overnight on Saturday within the area usually reserved for the visa and consular section of the Indian High Commission in central London, which remains suspended during the ongoing shutdown.
The students, largely from Telangana, have demanded that they be put on a flight back to India and have refused all help with alternative accommodation.
'There are serious safety concerns as they are within a confined space without any personal hygiene facilities. We are trying to reason with them,' said a diaspora group leader who has been working on resolving the impasse.
Meanwhile, Indian students, professionals and tourists who were due to travel back to India before India imposed a strict travel ban on travellers from the UK and Europe earlier this week have inundated the Indian High Commission in London with calls and queries about wanting to return to India.
The UK, meanwhile, remains in shutdown as it battles with an accelerating spread of coronavirus cases, which topped 5,000 as the death toll hit 244. PTI AK CPS