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Stranded Kish Visitors Double in Holidays

Lily B. Libo-on / 4 January 2009

DUBAI/KISH - The number of visa-change visitors stranded on Kish Island, Iran, has doubled during the holiday season.

The introduction of the new UAE visa rule, has been causing concern especially at the hotels on the resort island and the Filipino diplomatic mission here.

Aida Esquillo at the reception of Venus Hotel on Kish Island told Khaleej Times that the hotel has to assist hundreds of guests for extending their stay.

The visa-change ‘tourists’ have to contact the Residency Permit Office of the Immigration Department in Kish for an extension.

“The average arrival rate has been around 70. We have no rooms to spare. Even though Filipino guests agree to accommodate their friends in their rooms, we run out of beds and sheets,” Aida said. She said the room occupancy has been brought to the maximum of 14 guests per room as compared to the regular occupancy of seven to eight guests.

“Most of the visa changers are just sitting everywhere and staying outside is not possible because of the season.”

A spokesman of Kish Airlines, the major operator to Kish Island, said all their flights were fully booked. The same is true with Aseman Airline. Farz Air Qeshm has four direct flights daily to Qeshm while Kish Air and Aseman Airline have direct flights from Dubai to Kish.

The operators charge Dh600 for a round trip. The daily hordes of visa changers to Qeshm made Kish Airline to open a new route to Qeshm last month with two flights daily. This is in addition to its eight to 10 flights to Kish.

In September, Reza Ardalan, Head of the Residency Permit Office in Kish, Iran confirmed that 80 per cent of the 5,000 people on visa runs were 
Filipinos. However, Fatima, a tour coordinator at  Farabi Hotel in Kish, said it could easily be over 6,000.

Philippine Consul General Benito Valeriano said he is contemplating on issuing a travel advisory to prevent Filipinos from going to Iran or Oman until the situation returns to normal.

He said he would also recommend to the Department of Foreign Affairs in Manila to issue a similar travel advisory so that the Immigration at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport will no longer allow anyone leaving the country for Dubai on visit visas.

“In the first place, visa runs are not encouraged by the host government. Secondly, the situation in Kish and Qeshm islands in Iran and the UAE-Oman borders are becoming intolerable and very critical,” he said.

Acting Philippine Ambassador Laureano Santiago said the Philippine diplomatic missions in Abu Dhabi and in Teheran are making preparations for the repatriation of the stranded Filipinos. “They prefer to wait and come back to Dubai,” he added.

Meanwhile Indian Consul General Venu Rajamony said the Indian missions in the UAE did not receive any complaints from Indian nationals stranded in Kish. In case an Indian national is stranded, they are advised to contact the nearest Indian diplomatic mission in Oman or in Teheran for assistance. 

lily@khaleejtimes.com

 
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