A total of 90 Indian nationals gathered outside the Indian Embassy yesterday in a desperate attempt to seek repatriation to their home country. Among the crowd were tourists, business owners and employees working in the capital.
Raj Kumar, one of the Indian nationals outside the embassy, said, “I came here as a tourist with my wife and daughter. We have been stranded here for two months now. I have exhausted all my money from buying food and paying rent. I have no idea how long this can go on or when we can safely fly back to India.”
The group represented more than 200 stranded Indian nationals in the capital waiting to be sent back home.
In the meantime, owners of Indian restaurants across Phnom Penh were seen doing their rotational shifts to help provide food aid to their fellow Indians who were left stranded, jobless and with no means to feed themselves while awaiting repatriation from Cambodia.
“Few owners of the Indian restaurants in the capital, including myself, are taking turns to distribute food to Indians who have either lost their jobs or have been stuck here. We don’t know when they can finally go home or for how long we can keep this up considering our businesses are barely surviving,” said Lakhwinder Singh, owner of the Royal India Restaurant in Prampi Makara district’s Boeng Prolit commune.
“I have deposited my passport with the hotel where we are staying in to avail ourselves a little loan to not stay hungry. We want to go home but we don’t know when we can fly back,” said Mr Kumar, adding while some of them are managing, a few are barely keeping afloat and are forced to sleep along the capital’s Riverside Park.
Another Indian national said: “The hotel [where I stay] has so far been understanding and patient with me. Even so, I don’t know how long they would let me stay nor do I have any idea how long I can pull through as I spend sleepless nights on an empty stomach.”
In response, the Indian Embassy said they are doing what they can, saying repatriation flights are not easily organised as they take a lot of time and require strict adherence to several protocols and procedures in place.
The embassy said it is looking into how it could further extend its support to its stranded citizens who are in dire need of shelter and food. It added an assessment will be conducted to determine who are most in need of assistance.
“We have let the issues here be known to the government of India in Delhi. As of now, we have no information as to when a flight will be arranged,” said Indian Ambassador Manika Jain.
“In Cambodia, there are no Indian religious institutions like a gurudwara to facilitate food aid. There are also no connecting flights to India, which makes all of this a difficult and tedious job,” she said, noting Indians in the capital must have been misinformed for assuming the embassy has not informed them about the availability of flights departing for India.
There is no flight, to begin with, she said.