HYDERABAD/LONDON: Around 60 Indian students — most them from Telangana — created a ruckus at the High Commission of India (HCI) in London on Friday night, demanding that they be sent back to India in the wake of escalation in novel coronavirus fear. On Saturday, some of them had left. However, 28 students stayed put at the HCI building.
The students, who stood outside the HCI building all day on Friday carrying their suitcases, refused to leave the premises and spent the night on the floor in the passport and visa section. They insisted they did not have any place to go.
“We contacted some hotels and found them accommodation in two and three-star hotels at £10 per night. Most of them belong to Telangana and south India,” a senior Indian diplomat told STOI. “Despite that, they stayed put and entered the premises. They want to be repatriated to India. Since no flight can land in India, it is not possible to send them,” he said.
The protesting students claimed their hostels had closed and they did not have money to stay in London. “We offered them alternative accommodation, but they want to stay put in the High Commission. We have got no evidence that hostels have closed,” the diplomat said.
“The visa section has a huge floor where they are sleeping,” the diplomat said. The staff had already sealed access to the rest of the HCI building. “We do not want to evict them because they are Indian nationals. The canteen is closed over the weekend, so they will have to fend for themselves,” he said.
In a video message sent to STOI, the agitated students said London was already in a shutdown mode and there was no facility to conduct a coronavirus test on them. Mirza, a student from Hyderabad, said: “Please rescue us.”
Another student said if the government of India could arrange a special flight to airlift students from Rome, it could as well airlift them from the UK. “We are ready to cooperate with the authorities for self-quarantine once we land in India. Please fly us back,” they said in a letter to Telangana chief minister K Chandrasekhar Rao.
Meanwhile, the Indian diplomat said the students could leave the building and come back later. He said they were worried about health scare. “There are no showers. This is not sustainable in the long run. They could be spreading coronavirus. I hope in a few days, they will move on. There are not many visas we are handling now but this undermines the security of the building,” he said.
He said some of them were student leaders who “seem to be getting assistance from a political side.”