Thousands of Indian workers, as well as those from countries such as Pakistan and the Philippines who are stranded in the UAE due to the ongoing coronavirus lockdown, can now heave a sigh of relief, as the UAE government has offered to repatriate them to their respective countries if they test negative for COVID-19 infection.
The UAE had been repatriating foreign visitors and tourists out of the country in specially arranged charted flights despite the air travel ban. However, a lot of low-wage workers from countries such as India, Pakistan, and the Philippines were unable to leave the country due to the high cost of travel in chartered flights. And even after the air travel ban got lifted since April 6, many of them have been left stranded due to healthcare concerns.
UAE will repatriate thousands of stranded Indian, Pakistani, and Filipino workers
The decision to evacuate citizens of all countries was confirmed by the UAE's Ambassador to India Dr Ahmad Abdul Rahman Al Banna, according to a report from the Gulf News. According to the report, Al Banna said that the UAE's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation (MOFAIC) had sent out a "note verbale" in this regard to the respective embassies of all the countries in the UAE during the last two weeks
"We have sent the note verbale and all the embassies have been informed including the Indian embassy in the UAE and even the Ministry of External Affairs in India," Al Banna said.
Repatriation only after COVID-19 tests
The envoy also added that the UAE has offered to test those who want to be evacuated for COVID-19. "We are assuring that we have the best of the facilities, the best of the testing centres and we have tested more than 500,000 people," he said. The Ambassador also assured that the UAE will offer cooperation to fly all those who got stranded for some reasons, including the lockdown and closer of airports.
"We are offering our system and making sure that they are good [to fly] by doing all the tests and transport them according to the request of their own government." Ambassador Al Banna also confirmed only those who test negative will be allowed to fly home, and those who test positive will have to remain in the UAE and will be treated in the country itself. Meanwhile, elderly citizens, pregnant women and those requiring medical treatments back home will be given priority.
The plight of stranded workers in the UAE
Ever since the coronavirus pandemic started in the UAE, thousands of blue-collar workers and labourers hailing from various countries of the world including mainly from the Indian subcontinent i.e India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka and also from the Philippines have no work or jobs and are left penniless due to the lockdowns and want to go back to their families back home.
Some of them have no place to shelter themselves because they have been thrown out of their accommodations due to non-payment of rents and are living rough on the streets and parks of Dubai and the other Emirates.