Coronavirus Pandemic

UAE-bound expats disheartened as India extends international travel ban

Saman Haziq/Dubai
Filed on July 4, 2020 | Last updated on July 4, 2020 at 06.25 am
UAE-bound, expats, disheartened, India, extends, international travel ban,

(Supplied photo)

The move comes a week after the suspension on oversees air services was extended till July 15.

In yet another setback for thousands of UAE-bound Indians stranded since March, the Indian aviation regulator, the Directorate-General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), issued a circular on Friday, extending the suspension on scheduled commercial flight operations to and from India till July 31.

The move comes a week after the suspension on oversees air services was extended till July 15. The circular, however, stated that international scheduled flights may be allowed on "selected routes" by the competent authority on a case-to-case basis.

For the countless UAE-bound NRIs stranded in India, the wait to return to their homes, jobs and loved ones seems endless. Disappointed and frustrated, many shared their heart-wrenching stories of pain of being separated from their loved ones, losing their jobs, homes and just missing their "blessed UAE life".

'Came for my husband's treatment'

Dubai resident Shehzadi Rehman, who has spent 21 years in the UAE, is now the only breadwinner of the house. Her husband was diagnosed with lymphoma and she had flown to Mumbai for his treatment.

"I am from Kolkata but came to Mumbai for my husband's treatment for two weeks. I was to fly back on March 31. But now I'm stranded here, that too at my cousin's house. We came to stay with our cousins for only two weeks but now it's four months. There are 11 members in a two-bedroom apartment. We came with limited finances to India and had to borrow money from cousins and friends last month. My children aged 26 and 24 years are old enough to manage on their own, but they are stressed due to us."

She added: "I have taken a huge loan to manage our finances. Now, I need to return to Dubai to get on with my job to pay it off. We really need to be home so that my husband can get proper care and attention. Plus we feel it's safer for him to be in Dubai than in Mumbai where the Covid-19 cases are rising at an alarming rate."

I lost my job and kids are alone at home

Dubai resident Padmapriya was inconsolable after hearing about the news of a fourth extension of international travel ban on flights from India.

She had flown down to Coimbatore to see her ailing mother, who was in her last stages of cancer.

"I left my son, daughter and husband and rushed to see my mother in India when I heard she was critical. She passed away a few days after I came and then my husband also joined me for her last rites on March 16. We were to fly back on March 21 but then the lockdown began and my children - one in Grade 12 and the other in university - are now struggling to manage their studies and the house. I lost my job as I have been away from work for four months now and if we do not land in Dubai soon then my husband's job is also at stake."

Trying to save up on grocery and house expenses, she said her children are having just one meal a day. "It breaks my heart when I ask my children if they have eaten and they tell me just one meal and that too when I keep calling them and asking them to eat. We didn't leave so much money that they could survive for four months. Now, some of our friends are helping them with food, bills and groceries. We have been waiting patiently for the last four months for this flight restriction to end but this latest extension is so disheartening. My husband and I are extremely stressed and worried for our children and jobs."

'My daughter has lost 10kg in three months'

A short visit to check out her elder daughter from the hostel to take her back to Dubai turned into a never-ending forced vacation for Dubai resident Chandrika Kulkarni.

"It's 110 days and counting. I left my younger daughter, 13, and husband and came to pick my elder one from her hostel. This year was supposed to be the year of major milestones in our family, but the truth is far from it. My husband and I had plans to mark our 25th anniversary with some celebrations but we had to do it over a video call. My elder daughter's 18th birthday, my younger one's 13th birthday - all were celebrated on video calls.

From managing his work and the house to cooking, cleaning and helping his daughter in studies, her husband is running the show but that has taken a toll on the health of himself and their daughter, she added.

"In the current economic situation my husband is finding it very difficult to manage as he has to put in extra hours at work. Eating patterns have been hugely impacted. My daughter has lost more than 10kg in these three months and her only question nowadays is when are you coming. I hope this nightmare comes to an end soon."

All my savings are gone

Sharjah resident Abhishek Kapur flew to Hyderabad on March 10 with his wife and daughter for his wife's abdominal surgery and has been stuck there ever since.

"I have received salary for nine days of work in the month of March and after that I am on vacation without salary. With all my savings and resources getting depleted, it's very hard to pay my rent that is due on July 10, along with the utility bills, school fees and other EMIs. The only savings I had for our daughter's education and for parents' treatment are now simply evaporating."

Talking about the setback of yet another travel ban extension in India, Kapur said he felt "miserable".

"As the international flights are again delayed, I am assuming we may be able to travel back by August and even after going back, we need to stay in quarantine before I can join work. Hence practically I would be without salary for nearly five to six months. Our survival is at stake now and everything looks uncertain. We desperately want to get back to the UAE, the place we have called home for the last 11 years." 

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