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Union Home Ministry allows Visa extension for Hindu Refugees stranded in Pakistan

Jodhpur : The Union Home Ministry has allowed a visa extension for 410 Hindu refugees stranded in Pakistan due to the coronavirus lockdown.

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) on Friday told this to the Jodhpur bench of Rajasthan High Court during a hearing on problems faced by refugees from Pakistan.

This comes as a major relief for immigrants who were staying in India on long-term visa (LTV) and had gone back to Pakistan for short trips on the special No Objection to Return to India (NORI) visa before the lockdown was imposed in March.

The NORI visa allows LTV holders with no Indian citizenship to travel to Pakistan and return within 60 days.

“Due to the lockdown, the 410 people got stranded there as the visa period of 60 days had expired”, said Hindu Singh Sodha, President of Seemant Lok Sangathan, a welfare organisation working for such refugees.

During the previous hearing on August 19, the high court was apprised of the plight of stranded NORI visa holders in Pakistan and had sought a reply from the the Centre about helping them come to India.

In its reply to the court through its counsel, the MHA said, “It has been decided that return visa in respect of such LTV holding Pakistani nationals, who had gone to Pakistan on NORI visa before the lockdown and stranded there due to travel restrictions, may be treated as deemed extended for a period up to 15 days from the date on which travel restrictions from Pakistan to India are lifted by the Government of India (GoI)”.

The extension of NORI visa will help the stranded immigrants to register with the High Commission of India (HCI) in Islamabad with all supporting documents that would enable the MHA to take up the matter with security agencies.

The HCI will, then, have to provide the MHA with the names and particulars of all such Pakistani nationals who register with them for return visa extension.

The visa extension will be stamped on their passports at Attari border in Punjab on their arrival, where they will be tested for coronavirus after entering India.

The issue had hit the headlines in July when one such Hindu refugee, Janta Mali, had gone to visit her ailing mother in Mirpur Khas, Pakistan in February on NORI visa with her husband and children, but was not allowed to return later due to the expiry of her visa. She got stranded there while her husband and children, who are Indian citizens, returned back home.


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