A charity in Dubai is helping to feed and house hundreds of Indian citizens stranded in the UAE after Saudi Arabia closed its borders last week.
More than 300 men and women, who were on tourist packages to pass through the UAE, have been placed in accommodation in Ajman by the Dubai edition of the UAE KMCC, an organisation registered under the Community Development Authority.
Many of the travellers were transiting through Dubai from India, on their way back to Saudi Arabia, when the flight suspensions were announced on December 20.
“I have been working to help these people since December 22 and have received requests from more than 500 people stuck here,” said Sajid Aboobacker, senior secretary at Dubai KMCC.
“We have now housed about 320 passengers, who landed in Dubai, at our accommodation in Ajman.
“A further 40 to 50 are staying in hotels that we are working with that have agreed to accept a cheaper rate of just Dh40 per night per room.”
On Monday, the kingdom announced that it would allow foreigners to leave the country on outbound flights, despite extending its suspension of international flights.
Mr Aboobacker said the majority of people affected by the border closure live and work in Saudi Arabia.
The passengers had to transit through Dubai as there were no direct flights operating between India and Saudi Arabia due to the pandemic.
“Many tourist agencies are selling flight packages to these passengers to travel from India to Saudi Arabia and they are telling people that once they reach Dubai they can contact our organisation and stay with us until the borders reopen,” he said.
“People are misusing our service, that’s why we have had so many requests for help, but there are a lot of genuine people who need food and accommodation that we are assisting.
“We are able to provide three meals a day and a roof over their heads until January 10.
"If nothing changes with the borders by then, many will be forced to travel back to India.”
The discovery of a new, more infectious virus strain this month led a host of countries to impose travel restrictions, including France and Germany.
Maintenance supervisor Anil Kumar arrived in Dubai on December 10 after taking his annual holiday in India.
He was due to fly to Saudi Arabia for work on December 26 but has been stuck here since.
“I have spoken to many people who are in limbo and stuck here,” he said.
“Fortunately I have relatives here and am staying with them, but many people have no money or people to stay with so they’re in panic mode."
Mr Kumar, 50, has lived in Saudi Arabia for 27 years. He was due to resume work on December 28 but said he has been in constant contact with his company to ensure he keeps his job.
“I have been speaking to my HR manager, to explain the situation, and thankfully they are being very understanding,” he said.
“I just hope there are no more extensions to the border closures next week as many of us need to get back to work.”
UAE KMCC is headed by its president, Puthoor Rahman along with PK Anwar Naha and Nizar Thalankara, who hold the position of the general secratary and treasurer, respectively.