Expat Indians quarantine abroad to return to UAE

Dubai - Many in India have found themselves unable to return as planned due to a suspension of flights.


Suneeti Ahuja Kohli

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Published: Sat 19 Jun 2021, 2:09 PM

Last updated: Wed 20 Oct 2021, 10:34 AM

Three people who were strangers until April this year have set out on an unusual 14-day trip together to Armenia. Their common goal: return to their work lives and homes in the UAE.

Jimeet Gandhi, Anupam Singh, and Nasar Shaikh are non-resident Indians and, like many others, had made a quick trip to India this year in March and April to meet their families. However, they found themselves unable to return as planned as the UAE announced a suspension of flights from India.

“I went to India in March to see my newborn daughter. I was to return to the UAE with my wife and child in April, but as things stand, we got stuck. I have an entry permit for my daughter, but my wife has been out of the UAE for more than 180 days, and now I am not sure if there will be any amnesty scheme to allow people like her to re-enter the UAE on their resident visa,” says Jimeet Gandhi, a senior tech salesperson.

Gandhi has been working remotely since May and is grateful to his employers for this option. He was waiting for the suspension to end but decided to move when the suspension was extended.

“Who knows when will the situation improve? Since the UAE is allowing entry only after quarantining in a third country for 14 days, I decided to take a flight to Armenia,” said Gandhi, who will be spending around Dh6,500 on this trip.

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Gandhi, like many UAE residents stranded in different countries across the world, has been relying on social media to connect with people. Most of the conversations are happening on help groups on Facebook, and from thereon mobile numbers exchanged and subgroups are formed on WhatsApp.

“I am in Armenia with my wife and one-and-half-year-old son. Even though we are staying here for two weeks, this is hardly a vacation. I continue to work remotely,” said Anupam Singh.

“This is not how I had pictured my son’s first international vacation. I opted for Armenia because a person on our FB group recently had used this option. He reached the UAE in May and was available to answer all questions. I made all the bookings on my own, and will be spending close to Dh15,000 on the whole trip.”

Nasar Shaikh, another stranded UAE resident, is also among the crowd of people who are in Armenia right now. “I am worried about my visa. It will expire soon, and I don’t want to lose my job, so I decided to take a stopover for two weeks in Armenia and then fly to the UAE.”

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Armenia is among the preferred quarantine spots for hundreds of UAE residents who are stranded in their respective countries because of travel restrictions. Over the last few weeks, several have taken flights to countries such as Armenia, Ukraine, Russia, and Uzbekistan to return to the UAE.

"We would be really happy if the UAE could have let us quarantine in a hotel in the UAE itself for seven to ten days. Most of us would not have chosen to fly to Armenia had it not been for quarantining purposes. A lot of us would be happy to support the local UAE economy by quarantining in a hotel in the UAE," says Gandhi.

The UAE suspended incoming flights from India on April 25 following a spike in new cases of Covid cases. UAE citizens, diplomats, golden and silver visa holders, however, were exempt from this ban.

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