• Shashank R. Chakerwarti

Ambassador Sandeep Kumar's Facebook Interaction with Students. (Transcript)

Updated: Apr 23, 2020

Dear readers below is an approximate transcript of the Honourable Ambassador's Facebook LIVE interaction with students from India in the Republic of Ireland. The text in green is solely my addition to the asked questions.


Hello, I wanted to welcome all the students across Ireland for participating in this discussion.


This is a mechanism that we will adopt increasingly now, and I hope that we can make it as a regular feature.


First and foremost, I would like to express my sincere appreciation to the broader student community throughout Ireland, who have shown exceptional courage, fortitude, leadership qualities and civic responsibility in adhering to the medical precautions advertised by HSE in Ireland, of showing an understanding of the current situation of adapting to the travel ban and to assure the sense of confidence in the leadership in the student leadership in being able to tackle this unprecedented challenge collectively.


I know that a lot of your questions would also relate to the current travel ban in India. I have said that repeatedly and I'm saying that again, it is for all our collective safety. It is for the safety of travellers, for the safety of airports for the safety of your families, and for the safety of 1.3 billion Indian people. There have been reports that few cases from Ireland of students who have been tested positive in India, who have also been quarantined, as there have been cases of several students from all other countries across the world, but we are very very sensitive and empathetic towards your condition. We, from the embassy, have made our best efforts. We have made proposals for special flights from Ireland as they have been proposals from other countries because we fully appreciate that some of you may be facing very difficult situations. So from our side, we have made these recommendations. As you know, this would be subject to the medical advice from the Ministry of Health in India. Most of the policymaking at this level, because it relates to a pandemic is associated with Ministry of Health and Civil Aviation and Ministry of Foreign Affairs can only make its recommendations. The embassy and I personally, and my staff will continue to follow up on these proposals and we shall provide updates as soon as there's a change in policy and I hope that there will be a change soon.


 

Q: Respected sir, I want to get my passport renewed as my expiring date is March 2021. And also my visa would be renewed and may not get the job offer please help?


Yes, this is a very valid question. And a lot of these questions would relate to getting your passports. We have received a lot of passports who had been submitted earlier to us for renewal, they are with us, we have been just constrained and not being able to send them out to you. But as of today, I have directed my staff to telephone each one of you whose passport is with us. And if you permit us, we will send it by post. So if that's okay, please do get in touch with us to provide your telephone number, and we will dispatch your passport to you by post.


 

Q: Is this (Facebook Live Talk) only for Indian students?


Yes, this is only for Indian students because we feel that in whatever we do. Indian students are an important component part even while all other sections of Indians are extremely important for us and we are making arrangements for every section of Indian society. Who feels isolated, anxious or fragile in Ireland and the community support groups are doing fantastic work towards that throughout Ireland. It's not just in Dublin, but we have constituted these community groups throughout Ireland and I personally have spoken to the presidents of all major universities throughout Ireland. They have confirmed to us the robust support structures which they have put in place for international students, including Indian students, and these cover important aspects of accommodation, of consular services, engagement, finances, and also health services. They have also assured me that if any student is feeling under any kind of pressure financially, they can also consider their case on a case by case basis. So I will be very happy to take up these issues with them. And I'm also aware that a lot of students are availing of the government of Ireland, pandemic unemployment payment. In fact, I've been told that a lot of you are even getting three to four times more than you would be getting in the regular circumstances and also that some have gone to India and they are still availing of this payment. But I would just request you to regularise everything that you are getting from the Irish government. And in cases where you have not been able to avail of this time to make unemployment payment, I believe it would be because you would not be in the legal stream of employment. So that needs to be regularised as well.


 

Q: I find the situation in India more in control comparatively, my query is that if the situation gets worse than Ireland; are you planning for airlift to India for Indians irrespective of the occupations?


Yeah, the question basically relates to that someone who was here, he was studying here now, he's moved to Limerick and in saying that the situation in Ireland is much worse than in India. But I would like to tell you that as of today, the cases positive cases in India are actually more in India than they are in Ireland. Of course, everywhere we need to take the same precautions, we are very concerned. But at the same time, I would also like to offer my encouragement that the measures that the Irish government has taken to contain the virus within Ireland and they have done so this is as per the assessment of WHO that they have done so in a far more effective manner than in many other countries in the European Union. And we have seen those cases in Italy, in Spain, in Germany in the UK where those cases are far higher. And this is despite the medical constraints that have been felt throughout the world. So yes, we are fully appreciative of your issues. You want to be airlifted but as I said, we have made a case to India I will follow it through and as soon as there are updates, I will be the first one to provide that through our embassy advisory and Facebook and community support group channels.


 

Q: If we students get sick due to Corona, can we get any medical support form the government and how much do we have to pay for it?


There are very robust support systems in place in Ireland for people who are affected by it in our community support groups also we have doctors.

- If you have no permission to live in the State and provided that information collected by health and other State authorities is used in the national battle against COVID-19, the Department's Immigration Services do not require that State authorities collect or reveal information on the immigration status of any individual seeking access to critical health care or other public services.

- Under Article 12 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Ireland has committed itself to ensure that medical treatment in the event of sickness is a human right. Not only that but, as a signatory, the State has also recognised the right of “everyone” to enjoy the “highest attainable standard of physical and mental health” – no strings or health insurance policies attached.


 

Q: I came to India on 19 March as semesters was made online because of Covid-19 and I am a GNIB Card Holder. So do we have any rule of coming back to Ireland after the lockdown?


You see coming back to Ireland I know that there have been flights by the Irish embassy for their citizens to bring them back to Ireland. But if you are an Indian citizen, then maybe you would just have to wait until the international travel ban is lifted. I would not be able to say as of now when that may happen, but as soon as that happens, we will provide the updates for us at the moment the priority is for people who are stranded here, to get into India to be with their families to feel that they are with their loved ones and psychologically to feel safe and secure. So that will be our priority rather than having flights for people who have already been to India. They went there out of their own choice to be able to come back to Ireland, although I know there are a lot of cases we have been approached by a lot of people who are in India who say that we would wish to return to Ireland for better internet connectivity and Wi-Fi etc. in India is not as good as in Ireland. Firms are getting us to work from home. And also some students have asked if they could return. But those are just some cases, but our priority would continue to be for people who feel isolated in Ireland and wish to return to India.


 

Q: I came here on a visitor visa now three months, when can I go back to India as I'm running out of money to support my expenses?


Yeah, the visitors as well, I think you wouldn't have been stuck for last three months because the measures which came into place whereby you know, and they started around the second half of March. But we fully understand that you may be running out of money. I may also tell you that the banking channels are open in both countries in India and Ireland, but still, we fully appreciate that any tourists or visitors who are here, they would be stuck. They wouldn't have that excessive money to be able to manage and that's why we are making our best efforts to be able to see if there could be any possibility of special flights dependent on logistic arrangements in India and the advice of the medical experts, the Ministry of Health, because currently our domestic medical doctors are all engaged in containing and fighting the virus domestically, it would require a lot of logistics efforts to be able to divert that machinery to management at the airport for screening for testing for quarantining millions of people who are stuck across the world, not just in Ireland. And we should also remember that within India, there are lots of people who are stuck migrant labourers, students who cannot go from one state to the other, and the government still feels helpless because they do not wish for movements to take place, which would affect the health and security of 1.3 billion Indian people. And additionally, there are people, thousands who are stuck even in our neighbouring countries like Nepal, like Afghanistan, where the borders are so porous they could just cross over. But even that is not being allowed because of these various reasons. And lastly, I would also like to say there are some very humane cases of deaths and family, students and others whose parents have died or loved ones have died in India, who cannot travel to India to be able to be with their loved ones and to provide support to their surviving parents. But again, you know, it's a very, very difficult, challenging and hopeless situation. We fully empathise with these people. I think the main reason we are not just here as officials, we are human beings, we have to fully empathise with all of you. But we are constrained because of this very unprecedented crisis, which requires unprecedented measures. And I may also inform you that I myself, attended one of the funerals offers student she was just 25 years old, which happened in Dublin. We had to get the priest it was conducted at the funeral directors office, the last rites the parents had to watch through video call how grief some could that be? It was extremely tragic, but it had to be done. So I appeal to each one of you that we are doing our best. And we need to continue to show the same degree of adaptability and civic responsibility, even while we continue to make a case for special flights.


 

Q: Considering that the Indian travel ban might get lifted by May 5th, would we be allowed cross-county to the Airport?


I don't know whether the travel ban will be lifted by May 5. We don't have any indication because the situation is evolving, no decision has been taken. But as soon as there is a decision, we will let you know if there is any possibility of flights. Then, of course, we will also arrange from the cross-county for cross country travel which would be considered as essential travel and we will take the requisite permits.


 

Q: When will the consular services open?


You see we have to, whether the passport services when they will open. It's not just passport in our consular services, which have been because of the requirement of the Irish government. There's a lockdown here until the 5th of May, so we are compelled to suspend the services. But if there is an emergency, we would still be very willing to help out. So please just bear with us until the 5th of May. But even before that, as I said, if some passports are already with us in our custody, we will be making our best efforts to provide them send them by post. The second question was and whether any Embassy letter will be required by the embassy for travelling once the ban is lifted, whatever arrangements are required and have to be made, we will make them and we will need to meet you appropriately through our social media platforms and through our advisories.


 

Q: I'm a student of NCI pursuing Master's, I'd applied for unemployment payment, but now I'm back in India. I got my payment three times before I stopped the service will it be a problem during immigration?


Listen, I wouldn't be able to answer this I do not want to venture into this question because it relates to the Irish government, not to the Indian government, so you would have to address it to the Irish government. Next question


- No and Yes. No, if you closed your claim once you left the state and only accepted the payment while you were lawfully resident in the Republic of Ireland and yes, it would be a problem if you had made the application whilst you were in India as the criteria were very clear that you must be resident in Ireland or you continued to accept funds post your departure.


 

Q: GNIB office is close and my permit is due to expire. There are no clear updates for online renewal for Stamp 2 permits. Can the Embassy liaise with the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Authorities for information please many students are in Ireland now solely to renew their permits and return home?


All visas which were supposed to expire for between 20th March and 20th May have been extended by two months. You can follow the INIS website for further details on this. And I'm sure you'll get more information from there.


- In light of the uncertainties caused by the Coronavirus pandemic, COVID-19, INIS Notice published dated 20th March 2020 applies to all persons with current valid permission due to expire from 20/3/2020 to 20/5/2020, whether pursuant to domestic law or powers of the Minister, or Directive 2004/38/EC (Free Movement Directive). All such permissions that are due to expire from 20/3/2020 to 20/5/2020 are automatically renewed by the Minister for a period of 2 months. As you must be aware that the offices are closed, you will not be getting a physical stamp on your passport or the IRP card.


 

Q: On the last day, the college told us there will be no next semester and asked us to go back home in respective of government orders of closing. Will embassy help us in getting a percentage of refund of fees from the college? This is a vital discussed topic.


I wouldn't be able to interfere with this. It was a college decision. But if you send us an email, I can forward your email to the Dublin Business School with our recommendation and let's see then what the response is.


- I would advise you that you get in touch with your Students Union for assistance and International Council of Students.


 

Q: I would like to know do we need to pay back the money which we received weekly as COVID-19 unemployment payment when we start doing our job again?


Again, I will not be able to answer that. In fact, I shouldn't be answering any questions relating to the Irish government, but these can be posted to them. And again, if there is any difficulty in their responses, we can assist you in reaching out.


- You should close your claim for COVID-19 payment once you are re-employed in the state and if you continue, it will show up in your revenue records hence could have a negative impact on your immigration in the future.


 

Q: Is the Embassy in talks with the Maynooth University regarding the situation?


Yes, we are in touch with all those universities and I believe that Maynooth University has also shared the support systems and structures in place for international students with you. So if there are any doubts about that, if there is any confusion please get back to us and I will return to Maynooth university and speak to that. I personally know the leadership there. I know some of the Indian origin professors there, I can immediately approach them.


 

Q: I am currently on a Stamp 2 visa during the pandemic I flew back to India; is there a rule that students on a Stamp 2 cannot reside outside Ireland for more than 90 days?


Until you are in India now please approach the Irish embassy in India they are open on email for answering questions and please go by their advice because this visa structure relates the Irish government, an Irish embassy would be very willing to help you I have had talks with the Irish Ambassador in India, they are helping out a lot to all students who are coming out with these queries.


- No, there is no such rule as many students are required under their college program to take part in student exchange programmes in their penultimate year and also because Stamp 2 is not counted towards a Citizenship application. However, it will impact your immigration if you are absent without any valid reason. INIS has confirmed to take a pragmatic approach towards such cases during the pandemic.


 

Q: There has been some negative image of the current circumstances in Ireland portrayed in Indian youth, can you please make efforts to give some hope and assure family members in India by making an official interview to the media?


Yes, we had proposals to make an official interview with the media in India. I've also made a video message here, which has also been circulated to India. But as soon as this proposal materialises, I will go out and speak to the media there. At the same time, I have also seen that you know, one student, in particular, gave a very negative video interview to one news channel in India talking about the less than satisfactory health situation in Ireland and how the government only has around 50 ICU beds and how they feel very vulnerable. I think it's wrong to comment negatively on the arrangements that the Indian embassy is doing and what measures the Irish government is doing. Currently, each and every government is struggling even the most developed country in the world, US, is struggling to meet demand and requirements with respect to PPEs, with respect to hospital beds, and new arrangements and creative ways of being found to deal with this challenge. And so is this being done by the Irish government in Ireland We are very encouraged by the measures that they are taking, of course, there are challenges there are constraints, but we are overcoming this like we are overcoming our challenges in India. But yes, I will be happy to go to the media and once the proposal materialises, I will be there.


 

Q: The Indian community is strong in Dublin, as well as the medical facilities. I don't see the kind of support I can get in Dublin can be available in Limerick. So what should I do I'm finding my life difficult here as medical support is limited here in Limerick. What would be your advice to Indian citizens here?


I don't know whether you're a student or not. But if you are a student I know that Limerick University has very strong support systems including for the provision of medicines and medical services. For other people who are not students living in Limerick, we have a community support group, which is offering around the clock for people who are facing many difficulties and problems. Particularly for medical services, so please approach them and I am also aware that within the Irish government at the county level there are several organisations which are helping out. So feel free to approach them. If you are not aware of them, talk to your community support group members of Limerick, and they will be able to guide appropriately.


- University Hospital Limerick is a Model 4 hospital in the region providing major surgery, cancer treatment and care, emergency department services, as well as a range of other medical, diagnostic and therapy services. It is where all critical care services are located in addition to a 24/7/365 Emergency Department and it is a designated cancer centre.


- Emergency and complex surgeries are only undertaken at UHL. The hospital is the hub for the three smaller local hospitals, Ennis Hospital, Nenagh Hospital and St John’s Hospital which manage the majority of their local population through their medical assessment units and inpatient beds.


 

Q: Are students allowed to work for 40 hours a week as per the current situation?


This is I really wouldn't want to get into this again. You know, whatever relates to the Irish government, I would leave it for them to answer even if I know the answer, I would not, you know, it would not be appropriate for me to answer questions which relate to the Irish government and also you should check with your university because they also are aware and they are probably providing full counselling in such situations.


- Yes, Stamp 2 holders (students) can work 40 hours per week during the COVID-19 crisis, this is conditional upon you completing your course online and your school/college offers this program. This constitutes a short-term and temporary step. Please read my blog on immigration service delivery during COVID-19 here.


 

Q: Due to the current situation I am not able to travel back to Ireland, my stamp was expired and am yet to apply for Stamp 1G. Will I be allowed to travel back to Ireland with the existing expired IRP Card? What is the procedure to follow to travel back once the lockdown ends?


Again, I will request you for you will have visas for people who are already in India, they need to approach the Irish embassy for further advice and guidance because it relates to the Irish government and the Irish embassy. So please feel free to approach them and they will advise you and follow their advice appropriately. There is just no need to panic. Everything will be done if they require a single entry visa to come back. It will be given, there's just no need to panic you will be helped both in Ireland and in India by the Irish embassy.


- You cannot travel back to Ireland on an expired IRP card, you must apply for a visa at the Embassy of Ireland in New Delhi, India.



 

Q: So is there any possibility to go to India in or after June 2020?


I don't have this information. You know, and no decision has been taken by the Civil Aviation Authority in India as to what is the date from when the flights would start, but I do hope you are right. And as soon as we have updates specific updates we will provide.


 

Q: I had applied for the work visa and they needed a few documents during the lockdown and after submitting it, they refused it because of the present chaos, and no one is responding back in the Irish immigration office as well?


Listen, whatever documents you need from us on an emergency basis, which helps you to get to work, although currently on lockdown, we are very willing to assist, even on an emergency basis, we want life to be easier for you not difficult. So please do approach us when there is more specificity in what you would like us to do for you with respect to documentation to be issued by the Indian Embassy.


- New electronic procedures for applications for reviews of employment permit decisions have been put in place. Applications for reviews may now be submitted by filling out the required form and e-mailing it to EPReviews@dbei.gov.ie. Decisions will be communicated to applicants by way of e-mail correspondence. Please read my blog on the contingency plan for EPS here.


 

Q: I'm currently doing my Masters my last semester project might be deferred to next year. In such a case, I will need to renew my stamp 2 visa; Should I reach INIS for this?


All visas are renewed by the INIS you definitely need to approach the INIS for this. And your university will help you do that as well, I'm sure.


- Seek your university's assistance in providing all the required documents and send a detailed email to Unit 1, Residence Division of INIS at unit1residencedivision@justice.ie


 

Q: I've been trying to register at Embassy of India Ireland page? Is there any other way to register for myself and my family?


We have circulated a link for all Indian nationals to register themselves on our official Facebook page, you may find a link on the pinned post and you and your family can then register with us. And if you have a problem please do send us an email and we will sort it out.


- The form can be found here.


 

Q: I've applied for my masters in UCC in the coming intake and only paid the deposit. So in case if the lockdown gets lifted up in June or July, is there any is there enough time to file the visa or any chance the university will be extended?


So we just need to be on the lookout for the evolving situation. Follow the updates the Irish Embassy will also keep you updated in India.


Q: If the embassy will open for a renewal passport?


This is beyond understanding that this is a lockdown situation. You will not be allowed to come to the embassy before May 5th. And you know it will also require us coming here, we are coming here from time to time, but we have special visuals to do that. We are open, we are doing business wherever is required in emergency cases. But if it is not an emergency case, and in any case, you cannot travel anywhere before that day, so it's best to wait until 5th of May.


 

I wish to confirm that the above is an approximate transcript and hope that the information is helpful.

I thank Ambassador Kumar and all Embassy staff for organising such an informative Facebook LIVE session.


Stay safe, stay connected - Jai Hind - Erin Go Bragh!

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