Foreign passengers at Dubai International Airport. AFP
Inayat-ur-Rahman, Senior Business Reporter
The UAE will today (Monday) start receiving residents with valid residence visas, who were stranded abroad due to coronavirus pandemic from various countries.
The UAE authorities have already warned stranded residents not to book flights or travel back to the emirates until they receive approvals on their request.
Gulf Today spoke to a few stranded expatriates, who were desperate to return to the UAE and were jubilant with the country’s bold initiatives in the fight against COVID-19.
Munir Awan, a leading Pakistani businessman based in Dubai revealed to Gulf Today that he along with his family were stuck in New York as they were supposed to return on March 15 to Dubai.
He mentioned that they were overjoyed after getting Federal Authority for Identity and Citizenship (ICA) approval and they have booked their tickets and would return during the week to the UAE.
Neha Kaul, CEO & Founder, Your Wordsmiths told Gulf Today that she was really excited with the initiative of the UAÈ government to help expats stuck outside to return to the UAE from Monday.
The UAE resident hailing from Nepal after she got stuck in her home country while her husband is in the UAE.
The UAE has been home for me for the past 20 years and I run a business there as well. I came to Fremont, California with my daughter in early March to visit my brother and parents and celebrate my dad’s birthday. But we were unable to return on April 4 as the UAE borders were closed in response to the pandemic. I recall being disappointed about not being able to return home, but it was also very heartening to see how proactively the UAE government was tackling the virus with the lockdown and disinfection drive and extensive testing.
“We completely understand the closing of borders and feel it was a very smart decision, which was the need of the hour. Right now there is excitement and relief as we look forward to return to a country that has made our home safe and secure for us to come back to. I have applied on ICA for approval and I am very hopeful that with the initiative launching today, we will be coming ‘home’ soon.
“Kudos to a government that makes us feel really welcome in the UAE. I feel we are blessed to be able to call Dubai home.”
Taghrid El Obeidi Vogor, the UAE resident hailing from France, who got stuck with her 14-year-old daughter in Istanbul in early March has lauded the UAE leadership’s bold move of allowing the stranded expats to re-enter the country from today. She mentioned that they have already submitted ICA forms and are confident to get the approval at the earliest.
Suhibh Pandey, the UAE resident hailing from Nepal, is desperate to return to the UAE after she got stuck in her home country while her husband is in the UAE.
“We came to Nepal on 6th of March 2020 and were scheduled to fly back on 31st of March. But due to the COVID-19, me and my children are stuck here. My husband is in the UAE right now. We have already submitted application with authorities and we hope our prayers will be listened and we will be together soon,” Pandey said.
The Sharjah-based budget airline, Air Arabia, announced it operated a new repatriation flight from Nepal to Sharjah carrying UAE nationals back home free of charge.
Pakistan's National Command and Operation Centre on COVID-19 directed all provincial governments to reopen their airports to avoid chaos in Islamabad, it was reported.
The airline, which had aimed to partially resume passenger flights from May 1, said in a statement all scheduled services would remain grounded until May 16 at the earliest. Earlier in the day, it had said the suspension would last until May 15.
"It is nice to be back home. Dubai is my home and my children’s home," Mark Hill, a British national, who has been living in the city for two decades, said after landing at Dubai International Airport.
Dr Omar Al Hammadi, the official spokesperson for the UAE Government said, “The vaccine is currently given to our first line defenders because they are more vulnerable to infection than others, and to the elderly and people with chronic diseases."
The rally in the city of Multan was held a day after police, on orders from the government, carried out the arrests and banned the gathering, defending the move as necessary to combat the coronavirus pandemic in Pakistan.
UAE President ordered the award of the Fallen Frontline Heroes Order to those who have lost their lives on the frontlines while tackling COVID-19