Nation (photos)

Photos: Joy, relief as stranded Indians arrive in UAE

Photos by Juidin Bernard/ Khaleej Times

Published on July 12, 2020 at 21.40

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After a four-month long wait, scores of stranded residents in India have begun their journey home to the UAE today.
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When the Indian Ministry of Civil Aviation announced that commercial flights from India to the UAE would be reopened from July 12 to 26, stranded expats rushed to book their tickets.
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All passengers were asked to carry travel permits from the General Directorate of Residency and Foreign Affairs (GDRFA) or the Federal Authority for Identity and Citizenship (ICA) — plus a negative Covid-19 test result from a testing centre accredited by the Indian Council of Medical Research.
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While there was some confusion on the documentation required to return to the UAE and because of last-minute flight cancellations, some of the passengers who landed on Tuesday said the process was ‘relatively simple and straightforward’.
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A father to two tiny tots, Shine, was emotional as he anxiously waited outside the Terminal 2 of DXB. All he could think of were his wife Parvathy and kids Bhanipillai and Aadith, whom he could finally embrace after over a hundred days. The moment he saw them from afar — he ran to them and carried his children in his arms as they walked out of the arrival lounge. It was a priceless reunion.

“I want to thank the GDRFA and the governments of India and the UAE for allowing us to return to our home,” said Parvathy. She and their kids flew in from the city of Thiruvananthapuram on board Air India Express IX1539.

“We consider ourselves very fortunate as we got tickets on the first flight from Trivandrum,” the mother said.
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Shina Salim, a nurse, had been stranded in the south Indian state of Kerala since March 14. “I went for a short vacation, but because of the lockdown, I’ve been separated from my husband and job ever since. I am very happy to be back,” she said.

Hailing from the city of Kollam, Shina completed her PCR test from Kerala’s DDRC SRL diagnostic services. “I gave a copy of the airline pre-requisites to the testing centre and got the result in 24 hours. My husband got the GDRFA approvals for me,” she added. During her trip from Kollam to Thiruvananthapuram, she also had to carry a self-declaration form in case she was stopped by police officials for further testing. Upon landing in Dubai, the passengers said they underwent another PCR test, with results expected in 24 hours. They were also asked to download the Covid-19 DXB app for contact-tracing.

“Until then, I have to stay under home quarantine,” Shina explained. “There were a few passengers on the flight, so social distancing was maintained. My husband and I underwent months of stress, and we had booked tickets on charter flights as well. Luckily, we didn’t need them anymore,” she added.   
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Nidheesh Mathew, who flew to Kerala when his father had a medical emergency, had been away from his family since March 14. Now, he is happy to be back.

Recalling his trip, he said: “I left home at 4.30am to get to the airport in Thiruvananthapuram at 6.30am. I did my Covid-19 test at DDRC, and told them it is for travel purposes.”
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Vipin and Saji, passengers who flew from Thiruvananthapuram to Dubai said the journey was ‘very smooth’.

Last week, India’s Ministry of Civil Aviation announced that UAE residents with valid ICA and GDFRA approvals, and Covid-19 negative test results, who are currently stuck in India, can fly back to the emirates on charter flights organised by UAE carriers as well as the Indian government’s Vande Bharat Mission flights for a period of 15 days starting today (July 12).
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