63,000 Pakistanis in Dubai waiting for flights to go back home
Envoy says consular services at Pakistani missions in UAE to remain suspended
Ahmed Amjad Ali, Consul General of Pakistan, Dubai, during a briefing regarding ongoing repatriation and ration distribution operations.-Gulf News
All consular services at the Pakistan Consulate General in Dubai will remain suspended until further notice, says a senior diplomat.
The Pakistan Consulate had shut its doors for consular service on April 6 following the UAE government’s guidelines on restricted movement. “We will advise expatriates to avoid visiting the consulate because no consular services are being offered," he said while talking to journalists. He said that access roads to the consulate areas are still closed with restricted movement and people are not allowed to visit the consulate.
“Also, we are not offering any passport or ID car renewal services until further notice,” he added.
63,000 Pakistanis registered
He also appealed to the stranded Pakistanis not to gather outside the consulate building because it would not benefit them in any way. “We have registered more than 63,000 Pakistanis who want to go back home from the UAE. You have to be patient and wait for your turn. We have prepared lists based on set priority and call you individually to advise you on buying airline tickets to go back home,” he added.
Consul General Ali said that he along with his officers and staff were working round the clock to help the community especially those who are stranded and those who need food.
He also briefed the media about what has been done so far to help the community members who are impacted by the coronavirus pandemic in the UAE.
The first repatriation flight was operated on March 23 to evacuate 101 passengers who were stranded at the Dubai and Abu Dhabi airports due to suspension of flights operation in Pakistan on Marh 21.
Then, there was a long gap. The consulate started registering stranded Pakistanis and was overwhelmed with the huge number of people who wanted to go back home.
More than 63,000 people registered at the Pakistani consulate in Dubai and thousands others at the embassy in Abu Dhabi.
11,000 job seekers
Some 11,000 of them included job seekers who had come on visit visas while almost half the total number were those who lost their jobs or were sent on unpaid leave.
Lists were prepared based on priority. Those who lost jobs, needed medical attention, pregnant women and those who came on visit visas were listed on the priority list followed by those who were sent on unpaid leave and then those with paid leave.
People started crowding outside the consulate and the embassy demanding to go back home. The consulate staff also came under criticism for ‘selling tickets at higher prices.’
Ticket prices revised
The tickets prices were revised and reduced after the Consul General and the community members raised the issue with the officials concerned in Pakistan and the Pakistan International Airline (PIA).
Repatriation flights started on April 18 and so far more than 4,500 stranded Pakistanis have been sent back home. A total of around 8,000 Pakistanis will be flown to Pakistan from the UAE on special flights until May 10. More special flights are expected to be announced later this week.
Consul General Ali said he expected the situation to get back to normal later this month if regular flight operations are resumed after May 15 — the last date of suspension of flight operation in Pakistan. Also, he said that quarantine facilities in different cities in Pakistan are being expanded to accommodate more passengers.
He advised Pakistanis to visit the government website www.covid.gov.pk for flight information and follow the instructions given by the Pakistani diplomatic missions.
Repatriation of bodies
The consulate has also sent 56 bodies of Pakistanis from the UAE. Bodies of COVID-19 victims are not allowed to be transported. More than 400 prisoners were also flown to Pakistan last month on two special flights.