Hundreds of Indians en route to Saudi Arabia, Kuwait stranded in UAE

Published on Feb 16, 2021 03:41 PM IST

The other two countries have tightened Covid-29-related travel restrictions and UAE is the key transit point for Indian workers travelling to several West Asian 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. (Representational Image.)
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. (Representational Image.)

Hundreds of Indian workers en route to Saudi Arabia and Kuwait have been stranded in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) after the other two countries tightened Covid-19-related travel restrictions, with many reluctant to avail of free tickets to return home.

The UAE is the key transit point for Indian workers travelling to several West Asian countries and the Dubai airport handled 4.3 million Indian passengers last year, a majority of them travelling to or from Mumbai and New Delhi.

The Indian workers were stranded in the UAE 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 Gulf News newspaper 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.

Saji Cheriyan, a leading member of the Indian community, said he had offered shelter in Fujairah to around 400 stranded blue-collar workers, some of whom had been stuck for more than 10 days. An online campaign has been launched to seek support for people from Karnataka stuck in Dubai, the report said.

The Indian consulate in Dubai told Gulf News that 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,” Cheriyan said.

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.

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