Two planes from India could arrive here empty next month – despite there being more than 400 New Zealand citizens and residents there desperate to get home.

The Indian government has announced two repatriation flights for Indian nationals still in New Zealand – which are scheduled to leave India on August 5 and 10.

But the New Zealand government has yet to confirm whether those flights can bring people home.

Business owner Rohit Sharma has been stuck in India since early March, when he travelled over to get married.

Two weeks later, on March 19, India went into lockdown, before New Zealand followed suit a week later.

He is a permanent resident and needs to get back to his computer and phone business in Lower Hutt.

“That is currently being managed by my staff, I need to be there, I will definitely go bankrupt.”

Rohit represents a group of more than 400 New Zealand citizens and permanent residents in India, who are desperate to get back to their lives.

“People are struggling here, they’re willing to go back because their homes are there, they’re paying rent, they have car insurance and everything is there and they keep paying for everything and they’re just sitting here because they’re not working.”

It’s just as hard for those here, who are separated from their family.

One woman, who wishes to remain anonymous, told RNZ she has not seen her husband since he left for India six months ago to help his mother with a serious operation.

The New Zealand permanent resident was only supposed to be gone six weeks.

He has had many unsuccessful attempts to get on repatriation flights, but they are either just for New Zealand citizens or fully booked in a matter of minutes.

Their daughter was 2 months old when he left, now she is 8 months old and it’s taking a huge toll.
He’s crying, he’s saying ‘I really want to come back, I really want to come back’. My baby, when he left, was only two months old, now she’s almost walking.”

And his employer says time is running out.

“He’s giving him until the end of August including the quarantine time. The subsidy, he’s getting it, but unfortunately it’s almost finished so he said ‘we can’t wait for you anymore’.”

Between April and early July, the government supported around 2800 New Zealand citizens and permanent residents to return home from India through chartered Air New Zealand flights, commercial flights and third-country repatriation flights.

Air India says it is happy to take passengers from India when they fly over to repatriate Indian citizens next month, but without permission from the New Zealand Government this will not be possible.

In a written statement, the head of Managed Isolation and Quarantine, Air Commodore Darryn Webb, said the Government is yet to confirm whether New Zealanders will be able to access the outbound flights from India to New Zealand.

And that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade will keep in touch with the Indian government and provide an update to New Zealanders registered on SafeTravel in India as soon as details are available.

Both Air Commodore Webb and the Minister for Managed Isolation Megan Woods declined RNZ requests for an interview.

But, as India’s Covid-19 cases climb to around 50,000 a day, Rohit Sharma wants answers – and has a strong message for the New Zealand Government.

“At least let us know why you are not allowing us, if so many opportunities are in our hand to go back, we will pay for the ticket and the jets are ready to take us, please do at least something so we will be home.”

And with possible quarantine fees looming and capacity almost full in hotels – flights are in desperate demand now.

But until a decision is made on whether they can travel home on the flights next month, these New Zealand citizens and residents remain stranded in India.