450 Indian nationals returned back

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LAHORE: More than 450 Indian nationals, who were stranded in Pakistan due to the closure of borders owing to the spread of Covid-19, returned home through the Wagah border on Monday.

The Indian nationals were stranded in various parts of Pakistan due to Covid-19 restrictions as Pakistan had suspended travel to and from India in March 2020 following the outbreak of the virus. But batches of nationals of both countries have been repatriated occasionally under special arrangements since then.

Those who returned on Monday included Kashmiri students who were pursuing professional courses in Pakistani educational institutions. The process for their return started at 11am and continued throughout the day.

They were transported to the Wagah border from various parts of the country under special security, while other arrangements were also made to ensure smooth immigration of the travellers.

The Indian High Commission in Pakistan has facilitated the return of 405 Indian nationals, 48 NORI (No Objection to Return to India) visa holders and eight spouses/relatives of NORI visa holders from Pakistan to India.

A NORI visa is issued to refugees who do not possess Indian citizenship, but are permitted to stay in the country on a long-term visa (LTV) issued by Indian authorities. The NORI visa allows LTV holders with no Indian citizenship to travel to Pakistan and return within 60 days.

Earlier, 114 Indian nationals had returned home from Pakistan on Jan 11.

Also on Monday, India repatriated four Pakistani prisoners who had completed their sentences. Pakistani health officials tested them for coronavirus and shifted them to a quarantine facility here.

Last week, Pakistan had imposed restrictions on travellers from 26 countries, including its South Asian neighbours India, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka, till June 30 to contain the spread of Covid-19 in the country.

The National Command Operation Centre (NCOC) had placed these countries in “C category” and revised the inbound air and land travel categories amid reports of the rise of spread of Delta and Delta Plus variants.

“Countries in A category are exempted from the mandatory Covid-19 test, travellers from areas in B category require a negative polymerase chain reaction test that must be taken within 72 hours of the travel date, while countries in C category are restricted and people can travel only under specific NCOC guidelines,” said an official of the Ministry of National Health Services.

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