UAE travel: Stranded Indians heave a sigh of relief as flights resume
Many drop plans to travel to the UAE through other countries as vaccinated residents start flying in
When Sunitha Suresh Babu came to her hometown in Kerala on a brief vacation from the UAE on July 2, she had paid just Dh750 for the flight.
The psychology teacher at the Oasis International school in Al Ain, along with several others from the institute, decided to head back to the UAE to be in time for the new term for the staff amid the flight suspension that was enforced since April 24.
“But there were no direct flights and the travel agent told us to travel via Armenia,” she told Khaleej Times on Thursday. “It’d cost about Dh2,500 for the ticket and we’d also have to organise the visas for Armenia.” Flights were, however, full and she and her colleagues were told to travel via Qatar after paying Dh7,500 inclusive of airfare and the quarantine package.
“I had no funds, and I was compelled to take a loan against my gold ornaments,” said Sunitha. She also wrote letters to Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan and Indian external affairs minister S. Jaishankar. She was told that the Indian government was in touch with the officials in the UAE and the matter would be tackled soon.
Sunitha and her colleagues heaved a sigh of relief after it was announced that flights to the UAE would start from Thursday (August 5). All of the teachers from Al Ain had been vaccinated in the UAE, and, as a result they ticked all the boxes.
Dr Vini Devayani, who teaches Malayalam at the school, left for Kochi International Airport from her home in Palakkad — about 100 kilometres away — on Wednesday to catch a flight to Qatar. However, the travel agent called her when she was at the airport and told her to return home as she would have to spend 14-day quarantine before heading to the UAE if she travelled via Doha.
She is eagerly waiting for the travel agent to inform her about the flight to Abu Dhabi and is hopeful it will happen in a day or two.
“About 75 teachers from our school came to Kerala in three batches in early July for a vacation,” said Devayani. “All of us were vaccinated in Al Ain early this year.”
KV Abdul Khader, a former member of the Kerala Assembly and the general secretary of the Kerala Pravasi Sangam, which represents overseas Indians from the state, said that many non-resident Indians (NRIs) have been spending huge amounts on booking tickets via Central Asian countries to reach the UAE. In some cases, they have had to pay between Dh10,000 and Dh15,000 for a ticket to the UAE via other countries.
“There are 300,000 NRIs in Kerala waiting to return to the UAE,” he said. “About 10,000 of them have got vaccinated in the UAE but the others will have to wait for further clarifications. We’ve discussed this with the chief minister and health minister Veena George and have been told that the state government is in touch with the Union government,”
MV Shreyams Kumar, a member of Rajya Sabha, the upper house of the Indian Parliament, met Jaishankar on Wednesday and urged him to tackle the problem facing NRIs while returning to the Gulf countries. Kumar said the UAE had assured India of all steps in ensuring the return of NRIs from Kerala and other parts of the country.
He was confident that the thousands of NRIs awaiting clearance to return to the UAE and other countries would not have to wait for long as the Indian officials were in close coordination with counterparts in the other nations.
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