Combating coronavirus: Over 1,000 Indian expats express desire to return home from UAE
Residents wearing a protective mask walk on a street in Abu Dhabi.-Photo by Ryan Lim/Khaleej Times
Dubai - The leadership of the government of UAE has offered its world-class care to its nationals as well as all residents who effected Covid-19.
Published: Mon 13 Apr 2020, 8:00 PM
Last updated: Tue 14 Apr 2020, 2:54 AM
Several UAE- based Indian residents have expressed their dismay to Khaleej Times following the Supreme Court observation which said Indians stranded abroad cannot be flown back during the ongoing lockdown and flight suspensions on Monday, April 13.
India's apex court said Indian expatriates stranded abroad cannot be flown back immediately and all petitions before the court which sought directions or orders to 'bring back Indians stranded in various countries abroad' has been deferred for four weeks.
The Chief Justice of India Sharad Arvind Bobde led bench took up matters pertaining to evacuation of Indian citizens stranded abroad amid the Covid19 pandemic and a total of seven petitions seeking directions from Court on the immediate evacuation of Indian nationals from UK, US, Iran and Gulf countries were taken up simultaneously.
Bobde said, "Stay where you are. People in other countries cannot be brought back right now". Live Law reported solicitor general Tushar Mehta said it was impossible to bring back people to India during the ongoing crisis.
"All over the world, people are getting extensions. In my affidavit, I have clearly mentioned that right now it is not possible," said Mehta.
How many Indians want to go back?
According to Vipul, the Consul General of India to Dubai, formally, a total of 800 Indian nationals have expressed interest to return to their home countries to the Consulate via phone calls and e-mails. Furthermore, a company in the UAE has also requested the repatriation of its 1,000 workers, bringing the total available number to 1,800.
"Most of those who have expressed interest are visit and tourist visa holders, job seekers, individuals with medical conditions, people who have lost their loved ones, and people who have been laid off from their jobs. We also have some cases where families are separated, where some members are here and some are in India," said Vipul.
If emergency evacuations do take place, Vipul said the Consulate as well as the airlines organising them will prioritize passengers on a need-basis. "People over a certain age, families, worker groups and people who have medical conditions will be prioritized," added Vipul.
Vulnerable public must be allowed to go home
However, community groups and social workers working to support vulnerable residents in the UAE, including Indians, have said several residents wish to go back to India. Azad Moopen, the chairman of Aster DM Healthcare, also a director of Norka-Roots, the non-resident Keralite welfare body of the Kerala government told Malayalam media, "Since Norka has set up the online help desk, we have received a total of 8,000 distress calls from Keralites in the region."
KV Shamsudheen, chairman of the Pravasi Bandhu Welfare Trust said, "The leadership of the government of UAE has offered its world-class care to its nationals as well as all residents who effected Covid-19. However, among the 3.4 million Indians in the UAE, more than 60 per cent are lower-income segment from various Indian states." He said, "There are many Indians who came to UAE with tourist visa to look for work and many Indians came on visit visa to meet their relatives. Many of them have lost their jobs and many have medical issues. All of them are stranded."
The UAE government has offered to fly home citizens of all countries who wish to be repatriated, if they test negative for Covid-19 and Emirates The airline has offered special flights to evacuate residents back home.
Shamsudheen added, "We are not requesting the repatriation of all 3.4 million Indians. Only the most vulnerable must be allowed to go."
Mustafa Vengara, the acting- president of Kerala Muslim Cultural Centre, a not-for-profit organisation who has deployed several hundred volunteers to assist vulnerable sections of the public, also said, "There are a lot of people, especially bachelors living in shared accommodations, who want to go back home to their families. They are feeling alone and they are scared of getting infected. Of course, the UAE government has been very helpful during this time of crises, however, these people want to be with their families."
Indian diplomatic missions arrange free food, tele-medicine, counselling
Vipul said the Consulate is providing 200 packets of food to residents in the Naif and Al Ras areas every day for the next 10 days. "We are also coordinating with community groups to ensure supplies reach people in need," said Vipul.
The Consulate General of India (CGI) in Dubai has also launched a telemedicine service for Indian expatriates seeking medical advice about the Covid-19 coronavirus in the UAE.
"Starting April 13, Indian Consulate in Dubai is starting telemedicine consultation and counselling for Indian nationals from 9 am to 6 pm related to Covid-19 coronavirus on the flowing numbers 054 3090 571 and 054 3090 572," the CGI announced over Twitter.
Consulate officials said a total of nine volunteer doctors are providing medical as well as psychological counselling to distressed Indian expatriates.