14 Jun 2020  |   06:38am IST

Disagreement over SOPs leaves 64 Goans stranded in Cayman Islands

Cayman authorities arranged for charter flight through British Airways but was cancelled as BA refused wearing PPE kits for crew members; Goans say no response from Goa’s NRI Commission despite registration on website
Disagreement over SOPs leaves 64 Goans stranded in Cayman Islands


PANJIM: A disagreement between the Indian government and British Airways over the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) has left around 300 Indians, including 64 Goans, stranded in the Cayman Islands. They have also been rendered jobless and been left to fend for themselves as there are no return flights back to India.

Speaking to Herald from Cayman Island, Sachin Veluskar, originally from Panjim, said the Goans are in a bad condition as they have exhausted all their savings.

He added that the Cayman authorities have been very helpful but were unable to help repatriation due to strict SOPs of the Indian government.

An email from the Prathit Misra, Second Secretary, High Commission of India in Kingston Jamaica, says the Cayman government had approached them for arranging a British Airways flight from Cayman Islands to India. 

“We were on board but the Cayman government was very categorical that the cabin crew of British Airways would not wear PPE kits, a safety protocol of the Indian government that is compulsory for all private flights to follow. We tried to convince them that all repatriation flights from different countries are following this protocol and it cannot be exempted in view of passenger safety and order of Indian court to follow all safety protocols,” the Secretary says.

Further, the email adds, the Cayman government has confirmed that they will not be able to arrange British Airways flights as they will not follow this safety protocol. 

“They have, however, assured that they are looking for other chartered flight options. The Indian High Commission is also in talks with some flight operator to arrange a flight to India,” it says.

It adds, another option that has opened up is booking an Air India Vande Bharat flight from USA and travelling to India.

Herald spoke to NRI Commissioner Narendra Sawaikar, who said they should first register with the NRI Commission for repatriation.

However, the Goan group said they have registered but there has been no response from the NRI Commission or the Goa government.

Further, Veluskar said that the Indians have formed a group and each one is trying to help the other. “But how much can we help each other. There is no response from anyone,” he said.

Nodal officer for repatriation of Goans and NRI Director Anthony J De Souza said he would look into the matter. “Only Qatar and Alitalia has been following the SOPs, besides Philippines Airlines. We will talk to the Indian High Commission and see what best can be done to repatriate Goans,” he told Herald.

D’Souza also said that scheduling Vande Bharat flights is with the Centre and as such they have no say. “We have made several requests for Goans who are stranded abroad, let’s see what happens,” he said.