An elderly couple stranded in Dubai airport have appealed to New Delhi to allow them to return home to India after the country shut off international travel to curb the spread of the coronavirus earlier this week.
Amal Kumar Mandal, 75, and his wife Tripti, 73, have been staying in a hotel inside Dubai International Airport.
The couple were among 11 travellers from Australia who missed the last flight home on March 21 when rain and lightning in Dubai disrupted their transit flight.
Mr Mandal is diabetic and desperate to return to his home town Baroda.
India closed international travel to and from the country on March 22 and has extended the ban until April 14 to contain the disease.
“We are mentally very upset,” said Mr Mandal.
“Please help us go back home. We are too tense. I don’t know how we can stay alive like this not being able to go to our own home.”
The Mandals were returning to India after a month-long vacation with their son and his family in Sydney.
They took the flight home when Australia began shutting its borders to foreign travellers.
“We are so worried because know how dangerous the disease is for people our age,” Mr Mandal said.
“We hardly go out of the room to stay safe.”
The couple checked into the Dubai International Hotel inside the airport but their funds soon ran low.
UAE authorities have provided 19 passengers, including the couple, free hotel accommodation from Thursday night after the country shut down inbound and outbound travel for two weeks.
Several passengers recorded a video message appealing to the Indian government to fly them home.
Members of the group said at least seven passengers slept on the floor and on chairs for 10 days before they were given hotel rooms.
The travellers are in a transit area, legally a ‘no-man’s land’ in an international airport, where passengers can await connecting flights since they cannot enter the country.
“Please get us out of here and back to our families,” said Ajmer Singh, 36, who stopped over in Dubai from Lisbon and wants to return to his wife and six-year-old child.
He has been at the airport since March 18 when India began restricting entry from several European nations with local transmission of Covid-19.
“Sleeping in a room is better than sleeping on the ground. But all we want is to go home. This is taking just too long and we are scared. Why can’t India just take us back?”
Indian consular officials said they were working with New Delhi and UAE authorities to resolve the issue but said it was difficult to handle due to a countrywide lockdown.
India has also appealed to the UAE for short entry visas into the country.
Emirates airline has said it was working with immigration authorities, the police and consulates to “find repatriation solutions or facilitate special dispensations for entry into the UAE to help stranded passengers at Dubai International Airport.”
Pizarro Andrade, a bartender from Goa was returning home after disembarking from a cruise ship in Sydney.
“Why should we still be here? We need to be back with our family,” he said.
“We were to catch a connecting flight to Mumbai but got stuck here because of bad weather. This is not our fault. We were sleeping on benches for days. Our government should accept us back.”
All passengers have been tested for Covid-19 and their results are awaited.