India-UAE travel: Expats anxious to board first flight back
New rules stipulate that only vaccinated residents will be allowed to return to the UAE.
Many residents stuck in India have been longing for their families for months now. With travel suspended until further notice following a lethal Covid wave that swept India, expats have no choice but to wait — and hope that, soon, they’ll be back in their second home.
Stranded twice in Covid time
UAE resident Shradha Salla — a reputed numerologist, tarot card reader and Vastu practitioner — has not seen her husband, a Dubai-based entrepreneur, since November. Shradha has been living in Mumbai, with her two daughters, Aarna, 16, and Sunehra, 14.
It wasn’t the first time Salla and her family had been stranded, though.
“We faced a similar situation last year, when the Covid-19 pandemic first struck, and we were planning to make Dubai our second home since my husband runs a business in the emirate,” Salla told Khaleej Times.
“In retrospect, it appears that we’ve become victims of the popular saying that history repeats itself. Last year, we’re stuck in Dubai and this time around, we’re back to square one on the other side of the Arabian Sea in Mumbai,” she added.
Salla had taken the lead last year in helping several UAE expats fly home to India after the travel ban was lifted.
She has been receiving at least 10 calls a day from UAE residents, who are not reaching out for tarot card reading but soliciting help and expressing their anxiety about when they could return to the Emirates.
A father in need of surgery
Dubai residents Jabeen and her sister Naureen are worried, owing to the prolonged flight suspension.
Their father, a Dubai resident for the past 17 years, resigned from his job and flew back to India to see his ailing mother in Pune. He has a few days left before his UAE resident visa expires, and he is also not keeping well.
Jabeen, who is married and settled in Dubai, explained her father’s plight: “I lost my mother a few years ago and my father lived all alone in Dubai. He went back to Pune to be with his ailing mother before the travel ban was enforced. We’re feeling helpless as his residence visa expires in a few days.
“He suffers from an auto-immune disorder, myasthenia gravis. Our troubles compounded, as he recently dislocated his spinal disc and needs a surgical procedure, which has to wait till the flight operations resume. His travails have exacerbated, as he has no help at hand back home.”
Visa, vaccination woes
Shaheen Jamal — who has been living in Dubai for the past seven years — returned to Srinagar, Jammu & Kashmir (J&K), in India in February to meet her parents after two years.
The timing looked good for Shaheen, as Covid-19 cases back then were at an all-time low. There were no restrictions on flights and she felt it was an opportune moment to go ahead with the two-month trip with her three-year-old son in tow. But, then, the travel ban happened.
“I’ve been careful about the pandemic and abandoned my plans to travel to India until February, when the situation looked more or less back to normal. In hindsight, it proved to be a big mistake,” she told Khaleej Times.
Not only did Shaheen get stuck in Srinagar, but she and her son also contracted the Covid-19 virus. Her infection was severe, as she is yet to receive the jab.
To make matters worse, her return to the UAE appears uncertain, as new rules stipulate that only vaccinated residents will be allowed entry as and when flight services resume between India and the UAE.
Besides, her husband has recently changed his job in Dubai, adding another layer of complication as this meant her visa status has changed. “I’m unsure whether I need to apply for a fresh entry permit. My son has become an emotional wreck, as his father dotes on him,” Shaheen added.
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