Canadian govt seals borders; stranded Punjabi NRIs, students appeal govt to start special flights
In view of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Canadian government has decided to keep its borders sealed till at least the end of July and has extended its ban on travellers. As such students and NRIs, who were hoping to return to India, will remain stranded in Canada for longer.
Conversely, all those who had come to India in January and February taking leave from work or their educational institutions are also stuck in India.
Joga Singh of Tut Kalan village, Jalandhar, says, “My wife and I were scheduled to fly to Canada on July 27 to attend the marriage of our only son, Mandeep Singh, on August 14. Earlier, we were unable to get a ticket because of the lockdown and now there are no options left. We will have to postpone the marriage.”
An NRI, Amanpreet Kaur, said she had returned to her village in the Doaba region in February to attend a family function and was scheduled to return on March 29 but she was still stuck in Punjab. “I desperately want to return home to my children and grandchildren. I appeal both governments to ensure safe travel soon,” she said.
Joban Sandhu, a Mohali resident, who was planning to shift to Canada in March said, “We have already cancelled our plan to go to Canada. We are now planning to travel in September or October if the situation allows us.”
Recently, a 89-year-old Canadian citizen had committed suicide in Jalandhar because he was not able to get a ticket to travel home.
STUDENTS IN A FIX
Immigration experts say over one lakh students from Punjab and Chandigarh opt for popular education destinations such as the US, UK, Canada and Australia each year.
Director of an international education consultancy, Jatin Wadhwa, said, “There are thousands of students from Chandigarh and Punjab who are waiting to fly to Canada. We are hopeful that from August the situation will improve otherwise their plans may get affected.”
Simranjeet Kaur of Phagwara says, “I know almost 50 students from the region who had recently travelled to India to meet their families. However, they were stuck here due to the lockdown. Now, this new order has added to their woes and they will have to wait another month to return. Hopefully, the government will not extend the ban.”
She said the Canadian government should start special flights for students as they did for stranded citizens last month.
Chandigarh-based Rohan Verma, 21, who had applied to a Canadian college to pursue a course in 3D animation, is waiting for his visa to be processed. He says, “With every extension our hopes get diminished. I have already paid the college’s fee. Hopefully, travel restrictions will be removed by September or I will have to wait till December.”
EVACUATION FLIGHTS COST A PRETTY PENNY
Rohit Kapoor, a resident of Chandigarh’s Sector 46, said, “My daughter had returned from Canada in March and now she is stuck here. The charges of the special evacuation flights are very high. My wife is in Canada and she has not been able to return till now.”
Anuj Kalra, a Chandigarh-based immigration expert, says, “There are only limited exemptions for travelling to Canada right now. We are receiving many queries these days.”
A Canada Border Services Agency spokesperson had made the announcement.He said the agency had “implemented travel restrictions across all ports of entry in all modes of transportation - land, sea, air and rail. All travel of an optional or discretionary nature, including tourism and recreation, is covered by these measures.”
The ban instituted in March had been announced by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and he had recently indicated it would remain in place. He had said during a media briefing that the federal government was “going to be very, very careful about when and how we start reopening international borders.”