Photo has been used for illustrative purposes.
Jamil Khan, Senior Reporter
Around 200 homeless Pakistanis stranded for weeks in Dubai will be repatriated through a special flight to Pakistan as announced by the Ministry of Overseas Pakistanis and Human Resource Development on Saturday.
There are hundreds of Pakistanis stranded in Dubai and Abu Dhabi who are yet to get air tickets for the special flights to return to their country. They live in pitiable conditions. Many have to sleep in the rough waiting for the opening of the booking office while sharing food. They have no extra money to spend on other necessities but rather are saving it for air tickets.
Scores of stranded community members had already registered online in April and are still visiting the consulate daily for some ‘good news’ on their bookings for the special flights but the officials are reportedly yet to give them any hope.
According to some media reports and social media posts, a large number of stranded Pakistanis, including many who lost jobs due to the COVID-19 pandemic, were forced to sleep in the rough near the Embassy and PIA booking office to get return tickets. “You can see there are dozens of people already waiting outside the PIA office as there is no news about the operating of the office and we are unable to reach any official in the Embassy. We are sleeping here, eating here on the footpath as we cannot return to our accommodation as many of us have already lost our jobs as well as accommodation; our prime objective is to return home,” said one stranded Pakistani.
No one was available in the Pakistan Embassy in Abu Dhabi after repeated phone calls from the stranded people outside the PIA booking office.
The special flights are being operated by the national carrier Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) in collaboration with the Pakistan missions in the UAE on the directives of the Ministry of Overseas Pakistanis and Human Resource Development.
The PIA has two main booking offices in Abu Dhabi and Dubai. Both are closed for weeks as officials from the Dubai office have contracted coronavirus in April and only helping consulate officials from their homes for finalising booking arrangements.
When Gulf Today tried to reach Shahid Mughal, Country Manager, PIA for his comments, he was not available on the phone.
However, after repeated tries, Ahmed Amjad Ali, Consul General Pakistan in Dubai and Northern Emirates, told Gulf Today that he is currently busy and soon his office will release a statement on the new schedule of special repatriation fights from Dubai.
Asim Malik, an accountant by profession and resident of Abu Dhabi, told Gulf Today that he had lost his job in March and as soon as online registrations opened “I registered for repatriation but after such a long wait am still not getting any response, either from the officials at the Abu Dhabi embassy or the Consulate in Dubai. I have been visiting the booking office for any news daily but unable to reach anyone as we see daily over 200 people in the queue who have come from distant emirates to get tickets. No one from the Embassy is present to answer our queries as we are unable to do anything but blindly wait,” he said.
“In the last over one month, a number of special flights (around 50) have already repatriated more than 12,000 stranded Pakistanis and still we are sending accordingly,” said an official at the Pakistan Consulate in Dubai on condition of anonymity and confirmed that there are a number of special flights planned from Dubai to repatriate additional stranded Pakistanis.
Recently, Pakistani expatriates planning to avail of the special repatriation flights to Pakistan voiced their concern on a number of issues like inadequate arrangements to acquire tickets, costly prices and non-refundable tickets in case of any mishap.
The community members who gathered at the ticketing office in Deira were seen standing in a long queues without any shade as the mercury touched 39º Celsius on Monday.
Passengers started gathering early morning after they got phone calls earlier from the consulate to confirm their seats in upcoming special repatriation flights arranged by the Pakistan International Airline (PIA), national carrier.
The Pakistani consulate in the United Arab Emirates is doing a tremendous job on the instruction of its government to facilitate stranded Pakistanis and bring them back to the country.
The UAE government has already initiated sterilisation procedures throughout the country with clear instructions for the general public to stay at home. The sterilisation drive has brought normal life in the nation to a complete standstill as roads and streets wore a deserted look.
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The pandemic has engulfed the world in sorrow and pain, forced closure of almost all outdoor events and locked millions of people indoors. But shortly the gloom will come to an end and humanity will come alive once again. So also will be the case with the rescheduled Expo 2020 (“New dates for Dubai Expo 2020 announced,” May 4, Gulf Today).
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