Dubai: With their families split and jobs and businesses at stake, expats stranded back home due to the COVID-19 travel restrictions have appealed for help to return to the UAE.
Several expats have been writing to Gulf News hoping that the authorities lift the entry restrictions for residents, especially those who are fully vaccinated.
Meanwhile, the Indian Embassy in Abu Dhabi said it had raised travel concerns of Indian expatriates stuck back home with the UAE authorities to help resolve the situation.
Taking to Twitter on Thursday, the mission posted: “We are acutely aware of the concerns of our nationals normally resident in UAE but presently in India. We have raised these concerns with UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs & are continuously working with them to arrive at a resolution.”
The mission also tagged the Indian Ministry of External Affairs, Pavan Kapoor, the Indian Ambassador to the UAE, and the Indian Consulate in Dubai.
UAE residents have raised various concerns, including worries about job loss, difficulty in paying bills and renewing rent contracts in the UAE and some missing their second dose of vaccination as well.
Sharjah resident Rajesh Mammayil said he had flown home to Thrissur in Kerala, India, when his father passed away due to cancer on April 15. “I am an entrepreneur running a small business. My wife and three children in the UAE are struggling in my absence and my business is also suffering. Our maid is also stuck in India after coming down for her son’s wedding in Karnataka.
“We were hoping flights would resume from June 1, but it was unfortunate to know that flights were again delayed,” he said, referring to the announcement by Emirates that entry restrictions for passengers from India had been extended to June 14.
Rajesh said he had taken both doses of COVID-19 vaccine in March and appealed to the authorities to grant priority to fully vaccinated residents to return.
Jobs at stake
Another Sharjah resident, Braja Kishor Parida, said he and his wife Subhasmita Nayak had flown home to Kolkata in West Bengal for his brother-in-law’s marriage. “Now my paid leave is over and I’m on unpaid leave now. I will be in big trouble if I’m not able to fly back soon as I have to take care of the house rent, car loan and personal loan in the UAE.” He said his return ticket got cancelled twice and he was eagerly waiting for the announcement about travel restrictions being lifted.
“I have taken both doses of the vaccine from the UAE while my wife has just applied for the first dose in India. I do not mind keeping my wife in India for some more time [until she gets vaccinated], but I am desperate to return,” he added.
Raja Asad Khalid, sales manager with a building material trading company in Dubai, is stuck in Islamabad, Pakistan. “I had come down to my hometown on May 10. If I don’t return soon, my job will be affected,” said Raja, who also works in the media. “Many UAE visa holders stuck in Pakistan are vaccinated and want to come back soon. I also request the government to allow UAE resident visa holders who have been vaccinated to return,” he added.
Families are split
Dubai resident Prachi Dixit’s family was split between UAE and India due to the travel restrictions. She has sought help for her husband who is stuck in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, in India. “My husband travelled home in April to look after his parents after they both contracted COVID-19. Two days after that, the ban was imposed. Thankfully, by God’s grace, his parents have recovered and he did not get infected. Now it has been more than a month and everybody is fine in the family there and he wants to return immediately,” she said, referring to her and the couple’s two school-going daughters.
“Children are missing him and it has become challenging for me to handle everything all by myself. They are seeing their classmates’ parents from other countries coming back to the UAE and they are wondering why their dad can’t come back.”
She further said: “Nobody wants any problem for the UAE as this is our second home. So, we are urging the authorities to let at least the vaccinated people return with all precautionary measures in place, such a PCR testing and quarantine norms. My husband is fully vaccinated and we have been living here for 13 years.”
Tenancy contract not renewed
Atique Ur Rehman, who works for a paint company in Dubai, had gone to his hometown in Pakistan for two weeks to spend the Eid holidays with his family.
“Unfortunately, the flights were stopped and I am stuck. My return ticket has already been cancelled twice and it got re-scheduled to June 17, which is not confirmed yet and can be changed, depending upon the evolving situation,” he said. Rehman added: “There are a lot of official and personal commitments that I can keep only if I am there in the UAE. The renewal of my apartment contract there also is pending. The cheque book is with me. The landlord said I have to be there for the renewal. If there is any requirement for vaccination for travel, I don’t know how I will deal with it as I will have to get both the doses from Pakistan itself and that will further delay my flight for some more weeks. I am not sure how my company would react in such a situation.”
Visa validity concerns
Some residents, who had travelled out of the UAE some months ago, are worried about crossing the six-month-period out of the country, after which their visas will automatically become invalid.
Ejas Ahmed, a manager with an environmental protection company, and his family had flown down to Chennai in India on December 20. “My wife, who runs two businesses, wanted to spend time with her grandmother. We had planned to stay for three-four months and return to Dubai during Ramadan. We were supposed to fly back on April 27. But after the announcement about flight restrictions, we couldn’t make it.”
He said he was concerned that if they cannot return before June 20, they will have spent more than six months out of the country and it will affect the validity of their UAE residence visas.
“I don’t know what to do in such a situation. Last year, during the travel restrictions, the government had announced extension of visa validity. There is no such announcement so far this time. So, we hope the authorities will clarify this and allow us to return soon,” he said.