India-UAE flights: Travel restrictions may ease soon, says top minister

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Curbs may be lifted in coming days given significant drop in Covid cases


Saman Haziq

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Published: Thu 28 Oct 2021, 3:49 AM

Travel restrictions to and from India may ease in the coming days, given the significant drop in the number of positive cases, a top Indian minister said on Wednesday.

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India's Minister of State for External Affairs, V. Muraleedharan, who is visiting the UAE for a couple of days to attend the sixth ministerial consultation of the Abu Dhabi Dialogue, said this while interacting with the media at the Indian pavilion at Expo 2020.

The Abu Dhabi Dialogue is a regional, voluntary and non-binding consultative process between Asian countries of labour origin and destination. It serves as a platform to facilitate regional cooperation on contractual labour mobility, sharing of best experiences and learning from one another's experience.

"I am hoping that in the coming days, travel restrictions will be eased as there is a significant drop in the new cases in India. We had some talks and consultations on it on the sidelines of the Abu Dhabi Dialogue, but the formal announcement will come from the other countries involved."

"But I am hopeful and optimistic that in the coming days travel restrictions will be eased considerably so that migrants can travel," he said, adding that the dialogue is more relevant today as the pandemic affects migrants the most.

When asked about rehabilitation projects for welfare and re-integration of blue-collar workers who return to India from abroad, Muraleedharan said: "Any worker who returns to India after losing job abroad can list his or her skill capacity in the prescribed performa with the ministry. There is an employee-employer platform we have created where the employers can utilize that data and absorb people based on their abilities listed in the system."


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Speaking about the outcomes of the dialogue, he said a ministerial declaration had been finalized at the Abu Dhabi Dialogue for expats, especially workers, giving importance to their welfare and wages and job protection. Cases of domestic workers, especially women and their welfare, will be given priority. He said this came about after popular demand from all the participating countries, who also pledged to work towards it.

Ministerial representation from 12 Asian countries where non-resident blue-collared workers come from and six Gulf countries that employ the workers were seen at the Abu Dhabi Dialogue.

"A total of 18 countries are part of the ADD this year, and we've had fruitful discussions with them on the subject of labour welfare," he said during the media briefing.

Muraleedharan added that he also met with labour ministers of Saudi Arabia at the Abu Dhabi Dialogue. He said he discussed issues faced by blue-collared workers and female workers, which "will be resolved at the earliest".

"As part of the Saudi Vision 2030, at least 400,000 jobs are expected to be created in Saudi Arabia in the coming years. This is a great opportunity for skilled Indian workers wishing to work in Saudi. We've had several discussions aimed at worker welfare and dialogues about exchange of best practices on this front as well," he said.

After touring the Indian pavilion at Dubai Expo 2020, Muraleedharan said: "India is transforming into an economic powerhouse. Every Indian visiting the pavilion would be able to witness matters that bring in a sense of pride for him. The visitor would be able to witness India's achievements on various developmental fronts as well."

Minister meets Indian community

Early on Tuesday, he also met with social workers, community and business leaders at the Consulate- General of India in Dubai.

EP Johnson, the president of the Indian Association in Sharjah told Khaleej Times, "We addressed issues Indian expatriates in the UAE are facing with the Minister. We have requested him to consider providing non-resident Indian students with a special admissions quota in professional colleges and also touched upon the subject of medical, life insurance and pension for NRIs who are returning home after retirement from here."

"There are plenty of job vacancies for blue-collared workers here in the UAE; however, the high airfares and the cost of multiple pre-travel RT-PCR tests are discouraging workers from travelling to the UAE," he added.

The subject of repatriation of mortal remains for free from the UAE to India was also raised by social workers to the minister.


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