Image Credit: Gulf News Archives

The High Court of Kerala on Saturday asked the Indian government to respond to a public interest litigation seeking the return of Indian expats stranded in the UAE because of the coronavirus outbreak. The petitioners say the Indian government had “refused permission to chartered flight services even though some airlines were ready to operate special flights”.

A day earlier, a petition seeking chartered flights to fly back Indians stranded in the UAE was also filed before the Supreme Court of India by the migrant welfare society Pravasi Legal Cell.

These two cases shed light on the dilemma of expatriates who for long asked their governments to fly them home as they remain stranded in the UAE without jobs or means of support. That includes Indian, Pakistanis and Filipinos.

As COVID-19 continues to spread around the world, millions of people lose their jobs because of the economic impact. The world is already in a deep recession. Stranded expatriates thus feel ‘betrayed’ by their governments which are reluctant to evacuate them.

The stranded expats who want to be with their loved ones back home in these difficult times, are questioning their governments motives. They feel abandoned.

- Gulf News

A Gulf News report, published Sunday, interviewed several expats who said they were “broke and homeless.” Left without support, thousands of Indian and Pakistani expats feel “angered and betrayed with the lack of support” from their governments, they told Gulf News. And they just want to go home.

The UAE has already offered to fly the stranded expats, the UAE’s Ambassador to India Dr Ahmed Al Banna told Gulf News on Saturday. But Indian and Pakistani ambassadors to the UAE seem to have all the excuses to refrain from flying them home, despite the repeated appeals of their citizens.

“The UAE government is ready to repatriate Pakistanis, but the various departments including [Pakistan’s] health authorities back home are not ready to receive such a large number of people from abroad due to lack of quarantine facilities and lockdown in the country,” Pakistan’s Ambassador to the UAE Ghulam Dastgir told Gulf News. The Indian Ambassador to the UAE Pavan Kapoor had a similar excuse. “At this stage, we feel that it is best for them [Indians wishing to return home] to stay where they are [since] there is a complete lockdown in India,” he told Gulf News.

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However, the UAE has already notified the missions that those who will fly back home will be the ones who test negative. Expats who test positive will remain in the UAE for treatment.

The stranded expats, who want to be with their loved ones back home in these difficult times, are questioning their governments' motives. They feel abandoned. They are not looking for excuses to avoid going back. We hope their issue is taken up seriously and quickly by their governments, which have a duty to care for them.