Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 30 October 2020

CORONAVIRUS

Coronavirus: 22 Indian passengers stuck in Dubai airport transit area appeal for help

UAE and Indian consulate are working to fly them home, as stranded passengers sleep on airport chairs for days

A group of passengers including Harjinder Singh, left, and Deepak Gupta, right, have been stranded at Dubai airport since March 18 due to coronavirus restrictions. Courtesy: Deepak Gupta
A group of passengers including Harjinder Singh, left, and Deepak Gupta, right, have been stranded at Dubai airport since March 18 due to coronavirus restrictions. Courtesy: Deepak Gupta

Twenty-two people stranded at Dubai International Airport have appealed for help after finding themselves in limbo because of the coronavirus outbreak.

At least seven of the Indian passengers have lived in the transit zone for five days while others checked into a hotel on the concourse.

India is among the countries to impose a ban on passenger flights for at least another week, while the UAE was in the process of a shutdown at all airports on Monday.

Of the 22 Indians, eight passengers arrived in Dubai on March 18 from European cities such as Budapest, Lisbon and Barcelona.

We are actively working with the Indian consulate in Dubai to find a solution to get the passengers to their destinations in India

Emirates airline

The group recorded a video message asking the Indian government to fly them home.

The men are in the transit zone, a legal "no-man’s land" in place at most international hubs.

They disembarked from flights but cannot enter the country because immigration checks cannot be completed because all new visas are suspended.

Indian consular officials told The National that the group could not board connecting flights home because the countries they came from were among the 38 nations from which India suspended entry on March 18.

Eleven passengers, including an elderly couple, arrived on a flight from Sydney on Saturday but missed the last flight to India due to heavy rain and a thunder storm in Dubai on Saturday evening.

These residents of Bengaluru and Mumbai could not fly home by India's deadline.

The New Delhi government suspended all international commercial passenger aircraft from Sunday, March 22, for one week.

Of the eight who arrived from Europe, seven slept on chairs and on the floor for at least five days.

“We have been sleeping on the ground for days, please help us,” said Ajmer Singh, 36, who arrived in Dubai from Lisbon on March 18.

“Who can afford the airport hotel? It’s just too expensive.”

Mr Singh asked to be allowed to enter Dubai.

“I travel regularly and this is not how passengers should be treated. We are just very sad," he said.

"At least give us a visa so we can stay with relatives in Dubai or find a hotel that is not expensive.”

The men are from Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Jaipur and Ahmedabad in India.

One traveller checked into Dubai International Airport's hotel at his company's expense but his money is running out.

Deepak Gupta claimed he did not know of the Indian government’s restrictions when he boarded an Emirates flight from Budapest on March 18.

“This is my first trip abroad in my entire life and I’m stuck here,” Mr Gupta said.

“It is a hopeless situation. We are worried about our health. We are worried about catching the coronavirus.

"I’m staying in a hotel but the others are sleeping on benches and chairs in the airport. We don’t have any clothes because we only have our hand luggage.”

Mr Gupta has €50 (Dh196) remaining on an office credit card and his hotel stay of €240 a day is paid for one more day.

They are in contact with their families in India and reached out to the Indian consulate in Dubai.

Indian officials learnt about the elderly couple, aged 75 and 72, when their daughter in Australia wrote asking for help.

The couple also checked into the airport hotel at their own expense.

All 22 passengers were given Dh690 by the Indian consulate and a meal voucher from Emirates.

India said it provided airlines with the restriction advice in time and the men should not have been allowed to board in Europe on March 18.

Emirates said it was working with the consulate to find a solution.

It said the passengers were tested for Covid-19 as they were passing through on March 21, but were not allowed to board without a clearance certificate, as required by Indian authorities, which did not come in time.

“Emirates can confirm that 15 Indian passengers are stranded at Dubai International Airport due to the travel ban imposed by the Indian government and subsequent suspension of all international passenger services into the country from March 22 to 29,” an airline spokeswoman said.

“Emirates has been doing everything necessary to assist the passengers during their stay.”

Vipul, the Indian consul general in Dubai, said the travellers would be provided with money for food and any medicine they need.

“This is no time for a blame game,” Mr Vipul said.

“We know they are in a bad situation and we will ensure they do not have a problem with food and prescription medication."

Indian officials said they are in discussions with UAE authorities to allow the passengers short-stay entry visas into Dubai.

The UAE suspended entry of all travellers, except Emiratis, for two weeks from Thursday, March 19.

“We are hoping Emirates will arrange for the stay of the passengers who arrived from Sydney,” Mr Vipul said.

“We can do what is possible locally. Their ultimate wish is to go back to India but that is difficult given the situation of the stoppage of flights.”

The travellers are worried about the suspension of passenger flights in and out of the Emirates from Wednesday, March 25, for two weeks, as announced on Tuesday.

“What will we do? What will happen to us after the 25th? We cannot leave the airport and we cannot go to India,” Mr Gupta said.

Updated: March 24, 2020 01:48 AM

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