Coronavirus: 6,000 Filipinos repatriated from UAE since outbreak

Most nationals from the Philippines are keen to remain to search for better opportunities

An Indian woman carries a sleeping child as she waits at the Dubai International Airport before leaving the Gulf Emirate on a flight back to her country, on May 7, 2020, amid the novel coronavirus pandemic crisis.  The first wave of a massive exercise to bring home hundreds of thousands of Indians stuck abroad was under way today, with two flights preparing to leave from the United Arab Emirates.
India banned all incoming international flights in late March as it imposed one of the world's strictest virus lockdowns, leaving vast numbers of workers and students stranded.


 / AFP / Karim SAHIB
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About 6,000 Filipinos have been repatriated to their home country from the UAE over the past few months.

They chose to return to the Philippines after losing their jobs as a result of the coronavirus outbreak or out of preference to be with their families during this unprecedented time.

At least 1,000 more have registered interest to leave the UAE, as restrictions on international flights gradually ease.

However, Paul Cortes, consul general of the Philippines in Dubai, said most nationals were keen to remain in the Emirates to find new jobs.

“Most Filipinos are hopeful about the economy,” he said. “They are still optimistic, and have trust and confidence that the UAE will rebound.

"Generally people would still like to stay so that they are here when the economy rebounds to a level that will support more jobs.”

Most Filipinos are hopeful about the economy

Those who left the UAE were mainly residents who lost jobs or were asked to go on extended leave without pay, he said.

“For the 1,000 who say they want to return, it’s a changing figure because sometimes they say they may stay a little longer in case they get a job,” Mr Cortes said.

“Some would rather try for a job here rather than go back and then go through the whole process of trying to return to the UAE.”

From Wednesday, additional flights to Manila will leave from Dubai.

Three flights are scheduled to the Philippines capital this week, following the easing of restrictions that were enforced last month on incoming passenger flights. Flights were stopped to help reduce the pressure on quarantine units in the Philippines that were housing thousands of Filipinos repatriated from overseas.

Emirates and Etihad cancelled several repatriation flights to Manila last month after airports in the Philippines were temporarily closed.

“There was some backlog because the quarantine facilities back home couldn’t take anymore people,” Mr Cortes said.

“That will change this month as the centres are beginning to accept more Filipinos from overseas and this means more flights.”

The consulate will pay for the air fares of some passengers with meagre financial means including 20 housemaids who left their employers due to alleged mistreatment and unpaid wages.

In the Philippines, strict lockdown measures were lifted from Monday to revive an economy on the brink of recession.

The restrictions in place to slow the spread of the virus since mid-March have resulted in the deepest contraction in more than 30 years.

Public transport remains restricted and schools are shut as the country has recorded more than 18,000 infections and 957 deaths.