Dubai: A total of 494 Filipinos have been repatriated since the start of coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, according to the Philippines missions in the UAE.
The latest repatriation happened on Tuesday for 13 Filipino tourist-visa holders, who boarded a special Emirates flight, EK334, bound for Manila. They are expected to land at 9.05pm (Philippines time) or 5.05pm (UAE time) on Tuesday.
Last week, eight Filipinos stranded in Dubai also returned home. The Philippines Consulate in Dubai facilitated their return flights and the Philippines government paid for their airfares, Philippine Consul-General Paul Raymund Cortes told Gulf News.
Cortes added, 73 more Filipino tourists are expected to be repatriated soon, including around 50 visitors who are scheduled to depart on May 3.
Earlier, 415 Filipino seafarers who were stranded in two UAE ports for six weeks, returned home to the Philippines aboard two chartered flights on April 11 and 12.
On April 24, the Philippines Embassy in Abu Dhabi repatriated 58 Filipinos who were victims of illegal recruitment. They spent months at the Migrant Workers and other Overseas Filipinos Resource Centre (MWOFRC) in Abu Dhabi before they were brought home by newly-opened commercial flights. They were placed under 14-day quarantine, administered by the Philippine Department of Health-Bureau of Quarantine, upon their return, according to the embassy.
In a Facebook post, Hjayceelyn M. Quintana, Philippines Ambassador to the UAE, said: “Just like the previous one, the (April 24) repatriation was made possible through close coordination and cooperation between Philippines and UAE authorities.”
Cortes told Gulf News: “We are constantly working on the logistics for overseas Filipinos who have expressed interest to return to the Philippines. Rest assured that both the Embassy and Consulate will continue making arrangements for those who wish to go home.
Cortes pointed out that the government’s priority is to assist “those with no employer, relative or friend to help them and would like to go home for good”.
According to Cortes, the total budget of the Philippines government for its Assistance to Nationals (ATN) is PhP1 billion (Dh72.5 million) annually for all Filipinos abroad. He also noted that the ATN fund was instrumental in helping Filipinos who were overstaying in the UAE during the 2018 Amnesty repatriation programme.