Nearly 200 Indian Professionals, Students Stuck as Czech Republic Bans Travel from India

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A group of nearly 200 IT professionals, newcomers, research scholars among others, most with valid Czech Republic visas, are unable to join their employers in the European country amid India’s Covid-19 travel restrictions. The Czech Republic, however, has only allowed those who acquired visas subsequently August 2 while others still await a response from the authorities.

The Czech Embassy officials told News18.com, “conditions of entry toward the Czech Republic are regulated by the Protective Measure of the Ministry of Health of the Czech Republic.”

“According to the last update of the Protective Measure, a number of classifications of travelers arriving from India can enter the Czech Republic, including holders of a long-term or permanent or temporary residence permit issued by the Czech authorities… professional athletes or persons representing countries internationally and holders of a long-term visa issued subsequently August 2, 2021, provided that foreign nationals are authorized to enter toward the territory of the Czech Republic,” the official stated.

“Based on the updated Protective Measure the Czech Embassy is now authorized to accept visa applications for long-term visas and long-term residence permits for the purpose of study in accredited study programs at Czech universities in the academic year 2021-2022”.

Shristi Verma, 25, from Uttar Pradesh, left her position in Hyderabad in April, for what she calls a “once in a lifetime offer” from a Czech-based company in June-end. Being the only breadwinner in her family, Verma is now surviving on her savings, which she says are drying up. “The government has allowed essential travel. To us, our position is essential. My retired parents and my college-going brother depend on me. With savings drying up amid a pandemic market, I executen’t recognise what to execute. Since I am yet to onboard my firm in Czech, I am not a full-time employee yet and with their offer in hand, I can’t rejoin my old firm or look for another position only to leave it when my ticket comes.” Srishti now needs the Indian government to hold talks with the Czech and have a clarity on the terms of her employment and visa status.

The troubled professionals have started a social media campaign called #openczembind and signed up for an online petition at change.org, for which they have received more than 600 signatures as of August 8. The online petition states, “In light of the second wave of the Covid-19 in India, the Czech embassy in India have had stopped its activities since late April 2021 to date. The situation in India has much improved since then and many other EU nations (For example, Germany, The Netherlands, France, Spain, Belgium, Austria, Slovakia, Croatia, almost all of the EU) has already allowed essential travel by now. But essential travel from India (related to researchers, position employees, and family reunion of non-EU members) continues to be banned by Czechia. Almost all of us have our position contracts and hosting agreements for research positions in hand for over four/five months (with our occupations at stake at this point). This uncertainty and delay have caused an enormous amount of emotional, psychological and otherwise financial turmoil amongst many.”

A 29-year-old holder of the Marie Curie Early Stage Researcher grant had visited India to meet his parents and is unable to go back home. The holder of the highly prestigious fellowship told News18.com on condition of anonymity, “students are allowed to go back but not researchers because our stipends are high and taxable. I am technically a PhD student and I need to be at the varsity to complete my research.” With students enrolled in the upcoming academic year being called to the varsity, the research has been left pending.

A 26-year-old professional from Jhansi, Upasana Srivastava, says it’s “mentally and emotionally exhausting”. She too is unable to join her position in Czech and says “we are a small group of concerning 200 people, just because we are a small lot it should not mean that our voices would not be heard. We need the government to intervene and allow us some clarity.”

Meanwhile, Hemant H Kotalwar, Ambassaexecuter of India to the Czech Republic, told News18.com, “The Embassy is well aware of the issue and is following up with the Czech authorities.”

Kotalwar additional said the Czech health authorities put India on the list of “extreme risk” countries due to the second wave of Covid-19 in April-May. “…we have been continuously following up with the Czech authorities so that the people who are stuck in India and have been vaccinated can return to Czech Republic at the earliest. In view of our follow up, the students who have been admitted in the universities have been allowed while several other classifications of Indians are still stuck…”

Czech General elections are scheduled to be held in October first week and the Delta variant has turned the talking point for politicians. The country, with a population of 10 million, had gone through the worst crisis from October 2020 to May 2021 with 15,000 daily Covid-19 cases and more than 30,000 total deaths. The Czech authorities are extremely cautious in the current situation, he added.

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