Pakistanis in UAE can buy flight tickets from airlines without consulate approval

Direct booking will start from June 20 and will apply to more than 200,000 citizens stranded abroad

A health worker takes a nasal swab sample of a person during door-to-door testing and screening facility for the new coronavirus, in Islamabad, Pakistan, Monday, June 15, 2020. (AP Photo/Anjum Naveed)

Pakistanis stranded in the UAE can book repatriation flight tickets directly with airlines and do not need an approval from their consulate.

The announcement was made during a press conference by the Ministry of Overseas Pakistanis and Human Resource Development (MoPRHD) on Wednesday.

Direct booking with airlines will start from June 20.

The policy applies to more than 200,000 Pakistani citizens who are stranded in different parts of the world. Of these, 54,536 are in the UAE.

Until now, citizens are required to register with the General Consulate of Pakistan in Dubai and wait for an approval before purchasing flight tickets.

“People can book their flights commercially the way they used to,” said Dr Moeed Yusuf, the national security adviser to the Pakistani prime minister.

“The National Command Operation Centre (of Pakistan) will no longer decide which passenger can re-enter Pakistan, nor will the passenger have to communicate with their embassy.”

Since outbound and inbound UAE flights were suspended in mid-March, 82,456 citizens were stranded in the emirates – majority of whom were either laid off, were on paid or unpaid leave.

A massive crowd of Pakistanis gathered outside the consulate two months ago, to demand an official response on when they could return to their home country.

The National Command Operation Centre (of Pakistan) will no longer decide which passenger can re-enter Pakistan, nor will the passenger have to communicate with their embassy

So far, more than 20,000 citizens have already been repatriated from the UAE.

Emirates airline and Pakistan International Airlines are currently operating flights from the UAE to different cities across Pakistan.

Dr Yusuf said all airlines will be allowed to operate in Pakistan. This means low-cost Pakistani airlines, such as Air Blue, can resume operations.

He said the bringing back 40,000 to 45,000 Pakistanis abroad per week from June 20 onwards will be the new goal.

“This policy will help us potentially bring all of our stranded Pakistanis within one month,” he said.

“Those returning to Pakistan will be required to quarantine for 14 days, however, not all passengers will be screened for Covid-19 but thermal screening will take place.”

The number of stranded and repatriated Pakistani nationals as of June 6. Source: Ministry of Overseas Pakistanis and Human Resource Development

He said only symptomatic people will be screened and will be either sent to quarantine facilities or will be asked to self isolate at home.

Thermal screening will be carried out at the airports and authorities will use a "track and trace" system to monitor passengers after they go home.

Dr Yusuf said overseas Pakistanis “should not be stigmatised” about returning to their home country and “bringing the virus with them”.

Pakistan reported 5,839 new cases of Covid-19 on Wednesday, taking the infections to 154,760, including 2,975 deaths.

He said only three per cent of the Covid-19 spread in Pakistan has been caused by passengers arriving into the country and 96 per cent is locally transmitted.

“They have the right to come back to their home country. Please do not stigmatise them. They will not be the reason for the spread and will be brought back safely,” said Dr Yusuf.

Sayed Bukhari, special assistant to the prime minister for MoPHRD, said a new integrated programme was being launched for workers who have been laid off.

He asked Pakistanis who are returning to the country to register on the Overseas Employment Corporation website.

In the UAE, 21,843 Pakistanis have been laid off since restrictions were put in place and 34,397 are on paid or unpaid leave.