Coronavirus: thousands of Pakistanis fly home from UAE as repatriation flights continue

The country’s consul-general has said the country is conducting one of the largest repatriation operations from the UAE of its citizens

Pakistan International Airlines is involved in the repatriation of thousands of Pakistani citizens from the UAE. Courtesy: AP
Pakistan International Airlines is involved in the repatriation of thousands of Pakistani citizens from the UAE. Courtesy: AP

Several thousand Pakistanis have returned home from the UAE on dozens of repatriation flights over the past three weeks.

About 35 special flights have taken off from Dubai and Abu Dhabi in recent weeks – with more to follow on Sunday, the country’s consul-general has said.

About 59,000 Pakistani citizens are waiting to board flights back home, which is down from 65,000 who originally applied.

Consul-general Ahmed Ali said some people changed their mind after stay-at-home restrictions were lifted, allowing them to return to work.

“I believe this is one of the biggest repatriation operations from the UAE by any country so far, and this will continue in the coming period,” said Mr Ali.

He said Pakistan was the first South Asian country to begin repatriating its citizens.

“Almost 35 flights have now gone," said Mr Ali.

"Every week the number of people going [back] has increased, so next week we expect to have more flights.”

The first repatriation flight from the UAE took off on April 18.

The next are scheduled to leave on Sunday, with two operated by Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), and possibly one each by Emirates and Etihad.

“From both Dubai and Abu Dhabi so far, there have been more than 25 repatriation flights to Pakistan through PIA, and about 10 through UAE airlines,” said Mr Ali.

Last week, the Consul-General released a video in Urdu urging everyone to be patient and allow officials time to arrange flights.

“We understand everyone’s difficulty, especially during this month of Ramadan,” he said.

About 11,000 of those who applied to return to Pakistan were citizens who arrived in the country on tourist visas looking for work.

People without a salary and those in medical need were being prioritised.

Citizens have been warned against becoming a prey for fraudsters trying to sell fake airline tickets.

Mr Ali has urged anyone who had been approached by men claiming to be “special travel agents” to report the scam.

He said genuine tickets were only issued to citizens who had received prior confirmation from consulate officials.

India is also organising a massive repatriation operation to bring its citizens home from the UAE, with 10 Emirates flights taking off between the two countries this week.

Updated: May 9, 2020 02:14 PM

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