The Indian government has extended the term of the NORI (No Objection to Return to India) visas issued to at least 410 Pakistani Hindu immigrants– who were living in India on long-term visas (LTV) before their intended short-trip to Pakistan earlier this year left them stranded due to the travel restrictions imposed in the wake of COVID-19—to facilitate their return to India, according to an office memorandum issued by Union ministry of home affairs.
The term of the lapsed NORI visas of such migrants will be treated as deemed extended for a period up to 15 days from the date of lifting of such travel restrictions by the government of India.
Media has seen the memorandums sent by the MHA to the external affairs ministry (MEA) and to the additional director of the Bureau of Immigration on 31 July, paving the way for the return of such immigrants to India.
The migrants stranded in Pakistan include a 33-year-old Janata Mali, who travelled with her husband and three children to see her ailing mother in Mirpur Khas in February before the COVID-19 lockdown was clamped. Being Indian citizens, her husband and children returned to Jodhpur in the last week of June through a shuttle service operated for citizens stuck on both sides of the border but Janata Mali, a Pakistani living in Jodhpur on long-term visa since 2007, was denied permission to travel.
The July orders were issued after an earlier decision taken on 9 May to extend the NORI visas could not be implemented properly by the Indian high commission in Islamabad due to some technical difficulties. The MEA then requested the MHA for a review of the order on 17 June.
The MEA gave details to MHA of 410 Pakistan nationals, who held NORI visas issued by India and had been registered with the Indian high commission in Islamabad for the purpose of return to India. It was then decided to allow return of these individuals through the integrated border check post at Attari, subject adherence to the health/COVID protocols issued by the health ministry.
“Due endorsement of the physical extension of their Return Visas would be made on their passports at ICP Attari at the time of arrival. The HCI, Islamabad shall intimate to MHA the names and particulars of all such Pakistan nationals who have registered with them for Return Visa extension,” the memorandum stated.
The MEA and the HCI Islamabad have been asked to intimate date and time, along with detailed particulars, of these Pakistan nationals return to India, well in advance to the MHA to facilitate their arrival and necessary arrangements to quarantine them.
The memorandum has asked for details of other stranded Pakistan nationals holding NORI visas issued by India if and when they register with the Indian high commission in Islamabad, so that the matter may be taken up with the security agencies for prior clearance.