UAE travel: Indian family reunites, thanks to humanitarian exemption

Sajeev Joseph with wife Sheena and son Amal. — Supplied photo
Sajeev Joseph with wife Sheena and son Amal. — Supplied photo

Dubai - Sajeev Joseph's wife and son returned to Sharjah after they received a humanitarian exemption from the GDRFA


Dhanusha Gokulan

Published: Mon 9 Aug 2021, 7:44 PM

Last updated: Mon 9 Aug 2021, 8:49 PM

Meet the Joseph family that experienced a joyful reunion late on Sunday evening, thanks to the humanitarian travel exemption clause introduced by UAE authorities for residents stranded abroad.

Sajeev Joseph, director of sales at Flora Hotels, told Khaleej Times that his family, including his wife Sheena and son Amal, travelled to India on March 24 for their annual vacation. The family has been stranded in Kerala since April 24, after the UAE announced a suspension on inbound travellers from several destinations, including India, to curb the spread of the delta variant.

Joseph’s wife and son finally arrived in the UAE on board an Air Arabia flight from Kochi on Sunday. The family walked Khaleej Times through their ordeal on Monday. “My older daughter Anjali is pursuing her higher studies in Kerala. While we enjoyed the initial days of our holidays; we’ve technically been stranded in India since April 24. We could not return ahead of the border closures,” said Joseph.

Desperate to return to his job, Joseph returned to the UAE a month ago via Armenia. “While I did want to bring my family with me, the third country quarantine route is an expensive one. I could afford the cost of only one person’s travel expenses,” he added.

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Sheena, who runs a travel business, decided to stay back with the couple’s son Amal, a Grade 12 student of Our Own English High School, Sharjah. “My son is in the last year of his school this year. We had to return under all circumstances,” said Joseph.

“We have been trying every way possible for us to return,” the couple said. Last week, when the UAE’s General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) and National Emergency Crisis and Disasters Management Authority (NCEMA) announced that fully vaccinated residence visa holders from the ‘red list countries can return to the country, the family felt immense relief.

“Unfortunately for us, my wife hadn’t taken both doses of the vaccine from the UAE. She received her jabs in India (Covishield). We felt desperate all over again, until a travel agency we work closely with informed us that we could return on the humanitarian exemption,” he added.

How did the Joseph family apply for exemption?

A UAE resident for over 18 years, Joseph said: “We have a Dubai residency visa. I reached out to Arooha Travel Agency for support and they took us through the application process.”

Since there is no formal application process from the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs (GDRFA) mobile app or website, Sheena said: “The agency updated our details on the ‘passenger arrival’ section of the Federal Authority for Identity and Citizenship (ICA).” After this, Amal and Sheena applied for GDRFA entry permits online and received them.

“We did the RT-PCR tests and went to the airport. At the check-in counter in Cochin International Airport (CIAL), we explained to the officers that we want to travel on a humanitarian exemption,” said Sheena. The family provided their sponsor’s (Joseph’s) passport and Emirates ID copies as proof and the couple were allowed to board the flight after completing the four-hour rapid PCR test. “The air tickets cost us Dh1,250 each, much cheaper than how much we would’ve spent if we had travelled via Armenia,” said Joseph.

Rashid Abbas, managing director of Arooha Travels, said: “The service is relatively straightforward and easy to access. A lot of people who wish to travel are not aware of the processes that need to be followed. Like Joseph, we have helped another family as well.”

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