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Many Indian Returnees Stranded in UAE

Many Indian Returnees Stranded in UAE

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NEW DELHI, Feb 16: Hundreds of Indian workers en route to Saudi Arabia and Kuwait have been stranded in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) after these two countries tightened travel restrictions after the surge in the Covid-19 cases there.

Many of the stranded passengers were reportedly offered free tickets to return home but there are not many takers, official sources said.

The Indian workers were stranded in the UAE, the main transit point to travel to the Gulf countries, after Kuwait banned the entry of non-citizens for two weeks from February 7, and Saudi Arabia suspended the entry of people travelling from 20 countries, including India, on February 4. The move followed a rise in the number of new Covid-19 cases in both countries.

Last week, the Indian embassy in Abu Dhabi advised Indian citizens not to travel to Saudi Arabia and Kuwait via the UAE, and also asked travellers stranded in the UAE to return home.

On Tuesday, minister of state for external affairs V Muraleedharan said stranded Indians in need of help should approach Indian missions in the UAE. “Stranded Indian nationals on their way to Saudi Arabia and Kuwait via UAE who may require assistance for repatriation to India are advised to contact our Consulate in Dubai or Embassy at Abu Dhabi,” he tweeted.

Though there are no official figures for the number of stranded Indians, the local media reported that Indian community groups have “recorded the appeal for support from more than 1,000 stranded passengers, most of whom hail from Kerala.” A majority of the stranded passengers were headed to Saudi Arabia.

The Indian consulate in Dubai said free tickets would be offered to those who can’t afford to buy them using funds from the Indian Community Welfare Fund. However, the mission received less than 50 requests for free tickets till Monday.

“Many of them don’t want to leave as they somehow want to proceed to their country of residence as soon as the travel restrictions are lifted. Some are also happy and thankful that their [UAE] tourist visas have been extended till March 31.

A large number of Indian workers employed in West Asian countries, who came home amid the pandemic last year, have begun returning after the easing of Covid-19-related travel restrictions. Many Indian workers have been going back to Saudi Arabia to renew their “iqama” or residence permits.

The Indian government too has reached out to West Asian countries to ease restrictions and facilitate the return of Indian workers. West Asia is home to nearly nine million Indians, one of the largest concentrations of the diaspora, and Saudi Arabia and the UAE account for close to six million Indians.

(Manas Dasgupta)


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