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Difficult options for Indians in the Gulf as the repatriation process begins

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DUBAI: Texas Jodi Lal from Kerala has been given priority over others to take the first flight back home as she lost her job in the United Arab Emirates.

The company, with which he was working in Abu Dhabi, closed and was shipped on an unpaid leave.

“I have no money to stay here, so I have no choice but to go home,” he said, as he queued at Abu Dhabi International Airport to board the special repatriation flight by Air India Express to Kochi on Thursday.

While the flights home, for which the Indian consulates and embassies are preparing the priority list throughout the Gulf region, are answering the prayers of someone like Lal, not everyone has been so lucky.

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Prashant, who is a cleaner by profession, has also been fired and is now confused about what to do next.

“I have to leave Dubai, but I am not sure when I can do it. I did not apply online to be allowed a flight seat because even if I land in India, I will be quarantined for two weeks. And I will be unemployed after that. However , I am afraid of what would happen if I contracted the virus, “he told PTI.

On Thursday, a flight with 177 Indians on board is slated to depart Dubai for Kozhikode.

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Passengers include 11 pregnant women, struggling workers, seniors, and three people who have been stranded at the airport.

The Indian Embassy in Riyadh has announced that five more flights are scheduled to operate in the coming days. While one flight will operate on Friday from Riyadh to Kozhikode, the other will fly on May 10 from Riyadh to Delhi.

On May 12, one flight will operate between Dammam and Kochi and on May 13 another will fly from Jeddah to Delhi. Another flight is slated for May 14 from Jeddah to Kochi, however, it has yet to be confirmed.

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While these flights meet the immediate needs of the few, there is anxiety among those who do not have immediate travel plans.

Shirish Sundar (name changed upon request) had finalized plans to move to Delhi in late January. However, the plan was left in the background due to the coronavirus outbreak.

“With my 65-year-old father who has a pre-existing medical condition and a medical brother fighting the pandemic on the front line, I am eager to be closer to my family. But even if I land in Delhi right now, there is almost no nothing I can do, “he said.

According to data available on the website of the Embassy of India, the approximately 3.42 million Indian expat community is the largest ethnic community in the UAE, representing approximately 30% of the country’s population.

Indian missions in the United Arab Emirates finalized the list of passengers, who were chosen based on the compelling reasons they presented when registering their names.

The Indian Embassy in Riyadh said the flight schedule is being prepared by him and the Indian Consulate General in Jeddah.

“This is based on the online database of Indian citizens registry launched on April 29, 2020. We are prioritizing people based on demands, such as distressed workers, urgent medical cases, pregnant women, stranded Umrah pilgrims , among others, “said the Embassy.

Up to 60,000 registrations have been received to travel to India and it would take time to accommodate the large number of flights, he said.

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