"Where are we supposed to go?," a woman, stranded at an airport in Italy, who had booked her tickets to Kerala, was heard saying in a video which has gone viral in the social media. Many like her stranded at airports in Italy can be heard making desperate pleas for being airlifted to their home state of Kerala.
"You tell us where we are supposed to go? We have come from Kerala to work here in Italy. We are expatriates. We have left our jobs and homes. You tell us what we are supposed to do. Where will we go other than our state," another woman passenger asked.
Small children and pregnant women are among the 300-odd stranded Indians in the airports in Italy, where 827 people have died in the last two weeks due to coronavirus.
Another passenger said Emirates Airlines and the Italian authorities were prepared to take them to India, but it was the Indian government which was insisting on the certificate, they said.
The General of Civil Aviation had recently issued a circular stipulating that people "travelling from or having visited Italy or South Korea" and desirous of entering India "need to obtain certificates of having tested negative for COVID-19" from the designated laboratories authorised by the health authorities of those countries.
"Dear friends, we are from Italy. We had booked tickets. But we are unable to come to Kerala. The Italian authorities are not allowing us to board the flight. They say the Indian government was not allowing us to get back to India. We are expatriates and where are we supposed to go?" a stranded woman traveller was heard saying in the video.
Though they had reached the airport with confirmed tickets and were waiting in the queue, the airport authorities informed them they cannot board any flights as the Indian government was not prepared to receive them, another traveller said.
"We all reached the airport with confirmed tickets. But now the authorities are saying that the Indian government was not ready to receive us. There are small kids, pregnant women among us. Where are we supposed to go? We are prepared to remain in 14 or 28 days quarantine in case it is required. We all are ready for that," she said.
"Tell us what we should do?" The plight of Indians in Italy came to light after Hima, a woman from Kerala, stranded at an airport in the European nation released a video showing their hardship.
"We are being treated as smugglers. People have commented on the video put up on facebook asking us why we want to come back to Kerala," she said.
"Many came to the airport without knowing that a certificate would be required for them to travel. The airport authorities say India was not ready to receive us," she said in a voice message to media.
The woman said at least 200 Indians were stranded at Milan and Rome airports.
"We are sitting at a corner of the airport in freezing temperature. It is just like an isolation ward. The central government should give us the certificate to enable us to return," she said.
Describing the circular as uncivilised, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeking his intervention to withdraw the circular.
The state Assembly on Thursday moved a unanimous resolution seeking immediate withdrawl of the circular and bring the stranded Indians back, including Keralites, from abroad.
Vijayan had also pointed that the foreign authorities were not prepared to test people without symptoms as they were already flooded with patients.
"We are receiving information that many Indians are stranded in airports in Italy as they are not able to board flights to cities in India without this certificate", he said.
With eight more testing postive for coronavirus in Kerala on Tuesday, the total number of infected people now under treatment touched 14, as the state government decided to impose restrictions, including closure of educational institutions and cinemas till month-end to halt its further spread.