The Delhi High Court has been moved in a petition for the repatriation of 56 pregnant healthcare workers who are stranded outside the country with highest priority "as all of them are in serious distress and need immediate medical and socio-psycho support".
The Petitioner United Nurses Association (UNA) is one of the largest nurses associations with 3.8 lakhs Nurses as its members, operating as a trade union, representing the interest of the registered nurses through its constituents and its organisational affiliates.
It is pointed out that on May 7, 2020 India started Vande Bharat Mission, believed to be the biggest repatriation mission in the country's history, to bring home citizens stranded abroad amid the coronavirus pandemic. As per the announcements of the Ministries of Home Affairs, of External Affairs and Civil Aviation, the phased repatriation mission from May 7 to 13, has 64 flights bringing back approximately 14,800 citizens from 12 countries including UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, Philippines, Singapore, UK, Bangladesh, Singapore, USA and Oman etc.
The MHA vide Order dated 05.05.2020 declared the standard operating procedure (SOP) for all stranded Indian citizens returning home with following priority:
- Compelling cases in distress,
- Migrant workers and labourers who have been laid off,
- Short-term visa holders faced with the expiry of visas,
- Persons with medical emergencies including pregnant women and
Students and those who have suffered a death in their family.
It is submitted that even after the first phase of Vande Bharat Mission, a large number of persons with medical emergencies including pregnant women are still stranded in foreign lands.
"It is pertinent to mention that the Respondents announced second phase of Vande Bharat Mission where there is a plan to operate 149 repatriation flights to 31 countries between May 16 and May 22 to bring home citizens stranded abroad amid the coronavirus pandemic", reads the petition through Advocate Subhash Chandran K. R.
It is advanced that the Petitioner organisation is compelled to file this Writ Petition as its 55 members who are pregnant and stranded in Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and 1 member from Kuwait needs immediate medical and psycho-socio support as all of them are health care workers and as such are exposed to hazards that put them at risk of infection. Hazards include pathogen exposure, long working hours, psychological distress, fatigue, occupational burnout, stigma, and physical and psychological violence etc.
The plea avers that all of these 56 pregnant nurses are having serious medical issues as most of them are in the 3rd trimester of their pregnancy and all of them are staying alone in Saudi Arabia as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia did not provide family status to the staff nurses.
It is submitted that most of them are duly registered in the Indian Embassy at Saudi Arabia for prioritised repatriation in the first phase of Vande Bharat Mission but not considered by the Respondents. Besides, on May 12, the Embassy of India, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia announced second phase of Vande Bharat Mission whereby six flights will be operating in between May 19 and May 23. Therefore, the Petitioner is praying for the strict implementation of the aforesaid Standard Operating Protocol for movement of Indian Nationals stranded outside the country.