Coronavirus: Indians in UAE tell of anxious wait for repatriation flights home

Some were visiting Emirates on holiday while others lost jobs

Dubai International Airport has resumed limited outbound passenger flights amid outbreak of the coronavirus. Reuters  
Dubai International Airport has resumed limited outbound passenger flights amid outbreak of the coronavirus. Reuters  

Indians living and working in the UAE have described their anguish as they wait to be repatriated by their government.

More than 200,000 Indian citizens in the Emirates have asked to be flown home after the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.

India is expected to begin flights this Thursday, with 10 leaving for Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah over the next week.

The outbreak has had significant repercussions for employment globally, with job losses across a wide number of sectors.

I pray every day that my family does not get sick and the world gets better

Habeebullah Basha

Habeebullah Basha, 49, told The National he lost his job as a messenger for a legal consultancy in Dubai more than 40 days ago.

With no salary for close to two months, Mr Basha said he had been forced to take out loans from friends who he aimed to repay once back home in Pondicherry, southern India.

“Who is not scared of corona?” asked the father of two. “I pray every day that my family does not get sick and the world gets better.

“I can’t stay here without money and my borrowing from friends.

"My visa was cancelled because the company said there is no business.

“I have been searching for a job but with coronavirus it’s too difficult. I need to go back.”

Indian officials have asked those living in the UAE to be patient as they give priority to those with urgent medical requirements or who have families at home that need assistance.

Mohammed Aboobacker, a security guard in Abu Dhabi for nearly 30 years, said he hoped for confirmation of his flight home soon.

Mr Aboobacker, 58, said his job had allowed him to pay for his 22-year-old son to complete a bachelor’s degree in pharmaceutical sciences.

He said he had taken a free Covid-19 test at a centre for workers on April 22 and was awaiting the result.

“Everything is shut because of Covid and mentally I’m worried and want to be with my family,” said Mr Aboobacker, a father of three.

“I’ve been happy for all my work in the UAE, all the time I’ve lived here. Now I just want to go home. Any airport in Kerala is fine.”

Shruthi Kumar, who is pregnant, said she registered to be flown to Chennai, eastern India, so she could deliver her second child there.

Ms Kumar, 32, has a medical condition that may cause a difficult birth so she resigned from her job in March as a precaution.

She said her husband worked for a security company in Dubai but was now being paid half his salary because of the slowdown in business.

Habeebullah Basha had a job as a messenger at a legal firm in Dubai. Courtesy: Mr Basha
Habeebullah took out loans from friends after losing his job and is now anxious to return to Pondicherry. Courtesy: Mr Basha

“Somehow we are managing costs,” said Ms Kumar, who is four months pregnant.

“But I don’t have insurance coverage so every day I pray that my daughter and I can somehow go back to my mother’s home.”

Meanwhile, Faisal Abdullah said he was worried for his wife Saidum Rizwana, who is due to give birth next week.

Ms Rizwana, their two children aged 8 and 5, and her brother arrived in Abu Dhabi two months ago on holiday from Kerala.

“They were booked to return in March but then the lockdown happened,” said Mr Abdullah, who works at a grocery store in Abu Dhabi’s Baniyas.

"I'm desperate for my family to return because it will be expensive to have the baby delivered here. I pray every day that they will go home safely."

Mohammed Aboobacker hopes to return to Kerala on repatriation flights that will begin from Thursday. Courtesy: Mr Aboobacker
Mohammed Aboobacker hopes to return to Kerala after 30 years in Abu Dhabi. Courtesy: Mr Aboobacker

On Monday night, the Delhi government said flights would be made available on a "payment basis".

"Medical screening of passengers would be done before taking the flight. Only asymptomatic passengers would be allowed to travel," the government Press Information Bureau said.

Updated: May 6, 2020 09:19 AM


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