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Stranded Sri Lankans take refuge in Dubai park, seek repatriation

Dhanusha Gokulan (Principal Correspondent)/Dubai
dhanusha@khaleejtimes.com Filed on November 9, 2020

Photos by Juidin Bernarrd/Khaleej Times



This is the second group of Sri Lankans to have taken refuge at Al Hudaiba Park since September this year.

A group of Sri Lankans on visit and expired residential visas has taken refuge at a park in Dubai, awaiting repatriation.

This is the second group of Sri Lankans to have taken refuge at Al Hudaiba Park since September this year. The Sri Lankan diplomatic mission has vowed to move this group of job-seekers to shelters by Tuesday, November 10.

“At least 275 Sri Lankans seeking repatriation and currently living in shelters are expected to leave on a flight from Dubai to Colombo tomorrow (Tuesday). Once this group leaves, we will move the currently stranded group to shelters and work towards their repatriation,” Nalinda Wijerathna, Consul-General of Sri Lanka in Dubai, told Khaleej Times.

Residents of the area, Sri Lankan Welfare Mission Sahana, and the Sri Lankan missions have come forward to support the stranded residents with food, water and face masks.

Wijerathna added: “In this particular case, there are many who are refusing to move to shelters we are providing in Ajman. Our temporary accommodation has a capacity of only 160 people.”

‘Fraud job agents tricked us’

Khaleej Times visited Al Hudaiba Park on Monday and found that the group includes 10 women. They were found sleeping on mats and park benches.

Sifan, one of the job-seekers, said: “I have been stranded in the country since December last year. I was hoping to leave by April-May, but the lock down happened and I have run out of money.”

Sifan said many of those stranded were lured to the UAE by fraud job recruiters.

Another job-seeker, Selvan, said: “Thanks to people in the area, we have fresh food and masks. We need to go back as soon as possible. Many of us have no money to even buy food, let alone air tickets.”

Residents help out

Pragya Singh, an Indian national who lives opposite Al Hudaiba Park, said: “A friend and I have been providing them with fresh cooked food, water, face masks, and hand sanitisers. The Sri Lankan Consulate has been providing them with packets of food as well.”

Vishwa Thilakarathna from Sahana said the group will help the stranded Sri Lankans with air tickets. “We are grateful to the Indian welfare groups and individuals who are helping them.”

He said Sahana has provided at least 70 air tickets to stranded Sri Lankans since the Covid-19 outbreak. “We also arrange for immigration clearances and pay the fines of those stranded. So far, we have helped 50 such cases,” said Thilakarathna.

Repatriation process slows down

Nalinda Wijerathna said that the government cancelled scheduled international flights to control the spread of Covid-19. “We had a few unscheduled repatriation flights take off last month. However, the overall repatriation process has slowed down as there are limited spaces in institutional quarantine centres.”

According to Wijerathna, at any given time, only 7,000 international returnees can be placed in government quarantine centres in the island country. Since the outbreak, 9,200 Sri Lankans have been repatriated from the UAE.

dhanusha@khaleejtimes.com

author

Dhanusha Gokulan

Originally from India, Dhanusha Gokulan has been working as a journalist for 10 years. She has a keen interest in writing about issues that plague the common person and will never turn down a human interest story. She completed her Bachelor in Arts in Journalism, Economics and English Literature from Mangalore University in 2008. In her spare time, she dabbles with some singing/songwriting, loves travelling and Audible is her favourite mobile application. Tweet at her @wordjunkie88





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