India-UAE flights: Expats desperate to return after being stranded for 2 months


Dubai - Inbound passenger movement suspended till July 6, says Air India Express.


Dhanusha Gokulan

Published: Tue 8 Jun 2021, 7:47 PM

Last updated: Tue 8 Jun 2021, 8:38 PM

Indian budget carrier Air India Express, on Tuesday, announced that UAE has suspended ‘all inbound passenger movement’ from the country till July 6.

The airline issued an alert to this effect on Tuesday stating that the UAE’s General Civil Aviation Authority ((GCAA) has extended the suspension. The airline has advised passengers to reschedule their tickets for travel at a future date. However, UAE national carriers Emirates Airlines and Etihad Airways, at the time of print, have retained that the suspension would last till June 30.

Khaleej Times reached out to other Indian and UAE budget carriers, including Spice Jet and flydubai, who said they haven’t received any notifications from the GCAA regarding an extension on the travel suspension.

The suspension of incoming passenger traffic from India to the UAE began on April 24. It was extended on May 4 by the UAE’s National Emergency Crisis and Disaster Management Authority (NCEMA) in light of a deadly second wave of Covid-19 currently affecting India.

The sudden suspension on incoming passenger traffic from India to UAE has left thousands of Indian expatriates stranded in India.

Expatriates desperate to return home to UAE

A majority of the expatriates travelled to India to meet with loved ones or attend to urgent health or financial matters. Several residents Khaleej Times reached out to said they have been stuck there for the past two months at least and are now suffering loss of pay due to extended leaves. Many also fear that the longer they stay in India they would lose their jobs in that time.

A vast majority are also facing issues as their visas are expired or nearing expiry. Amrutha Shetty, a UAE resident said her husband Sachin and one-year-old son Samarth have been stuck in India for the last two months. “On June 4, my husband's visa expired. However, our visa is valid as it was renewed recently. We cannot stay here and renew his visa and there is no clarity on what can be done either. We feel helpless.”

Mohammed Akhil, a father whose wife and children and stranded in India, said, “I work for a private sector company in Dubai. My family left for India to deliver our second child and we were prepared to return after my daughter’s birth. Their visa is valid till January 2022, but they’ve been outside the country for over six months, which completed on May 16. My second daughter’s entry permit is also valid till June 16.”

Akhil said he issued these visas by spending huge amounts from his own pocket. “There is no clarity on whether I need to re-apply for my family’s visa. It is an extremely stressful situation.”

Khatiza Jadeja, another expatriate said, “For now, I am hoping UAE re-opens at least for its residents. Many of us are suffering without salaries or sources of income. I am happy to stay in an institutional quarantine hub if need be, but I really need to return to my job.”

‘Ready to stay in institutional quarantine’

Sachin Kumar, a senior project engineer from Dubai said, “I am UAE resident for the past 11 years. My wife Sonam Swati moved to Dubai in 2018 and our Samyak Vats was born in Dubai last year. My wife left for India last year to live with her parents for a short while, and I went to India to attend my sister's wedding in April 2021.”

“We are stuck in India and our job and life is at stake. We are happy to stay in an institutional quarantine in the middle of the desert as well, but we really need to get back as soon as possible,” he said.

‘What about visit visa holders?’

Many expatriates, who wished to bring their aged parents and relatives to the UAE for the summer months, applied for three months visit visas which are to expire soon. Gopal Krishan Tiwari, a retired Indian government employee, said, “I have applied for UAE visit visa for my wife and I, which we got on April 25, a day after the travel suspension. However, the last day for the visa is June 23. It seems very unlikely that I will be able to travel to the UAE.”

Tiwari said the visa was purchased with his son’s hard-earned savings. “There is no way we can afford an expenditure like that again.”

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