Combating coronavirus: Stranded Indians in UAE urge their government to fly them home

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Dubai - The ones who have suffered the most impact are job seekers and workers who have arrived in the UAE on a visit visa.


Dhanusha Gokulan

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Published: Tue 28 Apr 2020, 7:00 PM

Last updated: Tue 28 Apr 2020, 10:01 PM

Indian expatriates and visitors stranded in the UAE have appealed to the Indian government to allow them to fly home as soon as possible. Job seekers on visit visas, unemployed blue-collared workers, expats suffering job losses, sick and elderly persons, pregnant women, and separated families are among the Indians who wish to return home.
Among the stranded individuals, the ones who have suffered the most impact are job seekers and workers who have arrived in the UAE on a visit visa. However, help in the form of hot food packets and grocery kits have reached individuals and groups who have appealed for help to the Consulate General of India in Dubai, Indian Associations in Sharjah and Ajman and other welfare groups.
Indians suffer severe hardships
Subhash Sivanandan, an Indian job seeker who has been in the UAE since February this year said, "I came here looking for a job mid- February. Currently, I am living in a sharing accommodation in Rolla, Sharjah. Though I have not fallen sick, surviving here with no income is very challenging. I have been surviving on food handouts supplied by social workers."
Subhash believes even though he may have to spend a few weeks in quarantine, he still has a rent-free home and food to go back home to. He is one among those to have registered on NORKA-Roots emergency repatriation.
Danish Ali, a stranded worker, is one among a group of 22 workers who came to the UAE in search of jobs. Unfortunately, they were abandoned by fraudulent employment agents and have been stuck since February.
"We are a group of about 22 workers, and most of us are from Uttar Pradesh. When the situation became increasingly grave, we hoped to go back to India." Unfortunately, Danish said, most of them men had booked their air tickets were booked on March 22, when India had announced the 'Janta curfew', a day-long self-imposed quarantine.
"After the curfew, India has banned all international flights till April 14. We have not been able to go back since, and it has become very difficult for us to survive here," he added. Danish said the men have face masks and gloves with them, which they got with them from India. "We have not been stepping out of our accommodation at all," said Danish. The men are presently housed in bed spaces in Sharjah's Rolla area.
Families find it impossible to cope
Families, where the sole earning member, or sometimes both partners who have lost their jobs have said they are living in a nightmare. JV (name withheld at request) an Indian HR professional said he lost his job in the first week of March, and has not been able to make ends meet ever since. "My wife is seven months pregnant. She was supposed to return home in March, unfortunately, things went from bad to worse. I have another kid who has been barred from attending her digital learning classes because I could not pay her fees. We want to go back because at least I have a home in India and my brothers can support me for a while," he said.
Most of them need food: Social Groups
Several such cases of people have been living on the mercy of social workers, food kits supplied by the Consulate General of India in cooperation with the various Indian Associations in Dubai and the Northern Emirates.
Facebook users such as Vijay Babu has been using social media to individuals and families in need of food with generous donors. "Covering their name and number, I share a screenshot of their request on my Facebook page. People who are willing to donate, see the post and purchase groceries themselves and deliver it to the homes of those in need," said Babu. So far, through his connections, he has been able to assist at least 50 such families and bachelor groups looking for food and other supplies.
EP Johnson, the president of Indian Association Sharjah said, "I think when the flights to begin, the first set of people who fly out first are people on visit visas, pregnant women, and people who have no hope of finding another job." The Association has helped several hundred people in the last month. "Shockingly, all of them are asking for food and some of them need medicines as well. Not a single person is asking for money. Even the families who we didn't think need help are asking for food kits. We are distributing over 500 cooked food packets and 200 to 250 grocery packets every day," said Johnson.
Support extended from the Consulate
Neeraj Agrawal, Consul, Press, Information, Culture at the CGI said in the last ten days, the Consulate has reached out to 10,000 people by supplying them with cooked food packs and grocery kits.
"Roughly 4,500 cooked meals have been served and at least 7,000 people were given grocery kits," he said. The Consulate is working in cooperation with the Indian Association and social welfare groups, private donors, and community leaders to supply the foodstuffs. It has benefitted families and bachelors in Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, and Ras Al Khaimah, said Agrawal.
Support provided by state governments
As reported previously, NORKA-Roots, the Kerala government's welfare body launched an online registration programme where according to Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, a total of 276,000 non-resident Keralites (NRKs) from 150 countries have registered since its launch on Sunday.
An IANS report said, the Goa government's Non-resident Indian Commission on Tuesday, launched a campaign to reach out to the expats of Goan origin, primarily to create a database of overseas individuals who wish to return home on account of the Covid-19 pandemic.
"Glad to inform that, today Goa NRI Commission has begun the registration process/assistance of NRIs of Goan origin," Goa's Commissioner for NRI Affairs Narendra Sawaikar tweeted. As part of the outreach, the expats have been requested to fill up a small online questionnaire related to personal details and seeks to know about their willingness to return to Goa in view of the pandemic.
Anwar Ali, Dubai-based businessman and a representative of communities from Tamil Nadu said, "There about 200 people from the Tamil community who want to return home to India. They are mostly workers who have lost their jobs and some families as well." 

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