Sharjah: An undocumented Indian expat in the UAE has flown home to Kerala after 18 years following repatriation aided by the authorities and social workers.
The case of Keralite Sunil Kumar OV, who was reportedly plagued by financial and health crises, highlights the need to legalise residency status, social workers said.
Sunil, 47, was repatriated on Thursday, said Praveen Kumar, a social worker volunteering for the Indian Consulate in Dubai who supported the repatriation procedures.
According to Praveen, an unmarried Sunil had arrived in the UAE in 2005 to work as a foreman. “His history is rather sketchy and he didn’t have valid documents for years. According to him, he was trapped in a financial crisis after losing his job. He also had many health issues and he did not want to go back to his home country,” Praveen told Gulf News.
Old, expired passport
Sunil’s handwritten passport had expired in 2007 and he had secured an emergency certificate from the Indian Consulate in Dubai in the same year.
An emergency certificate is a one-way travel document issued to Indians without a valid passport.
“During that period, apparently his health condition also worsened and he did not fly home during the amnesty. His case was reported to me recently by Ratheesh Edathitta, Vice-President of the Indian People’s Forum in Ajman,” said Praveen.
“Based on the inputs from Ratheesh Edathitta, we initially applied for an emergency certificate to the Consulate,” said Praveen.
Since Sunil only had a copy of the previous passport, which was not machine-readable, the consulate sought verification of his details from the passport office in Kochi, Kerala, from where he had obtained his first passport. After the verification, another emergency certificate was issued by the consulate in October 2023.
However, Sunil’s health condition further deteriorated and he collapsed at his accommodation in Sharjah.
Praveen said Ratheesh had hailed the ambulance to admit Sunil to the Al Kuwaiti Hospital in Sharjah.
Hearing of Sunil’s ill-health, his aged mother expressed a strong desire to see him. “His mother is in her seventies. She was begging for help to see her son,” said Praveen.
The social workers worked with various departments to facilitate the repatriation of Sunil on humanitarian grounds.
“We contacted Harikrishnan Namboodiri, CEO of Norka Roots, Kerala, requesting for the government’s support to move him to a hospital in Kerala,” said Praveen.
Norka, the Non-Resident Keralites Affairs Department of the Kerala government, agreed to admit the patient in the Government Medical College in Thrissur, Sunil’s native place. Norka also offered to provide an ambulance to transfer him to the hospital from the Cochin International Airport.
“In December, after submitting documents for financial support to aid the repatriation, and the consulate approved funds for a non-medical escort with a wheelchair ticket to Kochi.”
Praveen said the UAE authorities waived the overstay fines and issued an out pass for Sunil’s repatriation. Another community volunteer, Kabeer Ahmed, escorted a wheelchair-bound Sunil to Kochi.
“We took almost three months to complete the whole process. I would like to thank the consulate, Ministry of Health and Prevention, the hospital authorities, the UAE immigration authorities and Norka for extending their support on humanitarian grounds.”
He said Sunil has been unable to speak properly. “He was extremely thankful to the hospital staff who saved his life and took care of him for over two months. Though he was choked with emotion, I could feel that he is grateful to everyone who helped him fly home after 18 years.”
Sunil was admitted to the Thrissur Medical College and is awaiting the reunion with his mother, said Praveen.
He highlighted that it is important for expats to legalise their residency in the UAE. “If someone is in trouble, they should not wait till they get into more trouble. If they are unable to stay here legally, they should leave the country, abiding by the local laws and regulations. It is mandatory for undocumented expats to seek visa amnesty when the UAE government announces it,” he added.