Abu Dhabi: The smiles are back on the faces of Indian expat Rana Mukherji and his pregnant Ukrainian wife Tetyana Polunina who were stranded at Abu Dhabi Airport since Tuesday due to travel restrictions imposed in wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
Shortly after Gulf News reported their plight, the Indian Embassy in Abu Dhabi intervened and issued a one-month emergency visa to Polunina allowing her to travel to India under ‘compelling circumstances’. A spokesperson at the mission confirmed that Polunina was issued a visa on Wednesday morning after she visited their office.
The couple will be boarding a flight to Bengaluru later tonight. Vipul, the Consul General of India in Dubai said it was “mischievous and plain wrong” on the part of the duo to claim they were stranded.
Consul General of India hits out at duo
“All Polunina needed to do was visit the Indian Embassy in Abu Dhabi and apply for visa. What she did today, she could have done yesterday. We spoke to them last evening and suggested that they follow due process but they remained adamant and insisted that we deliver the visa to them at the airport. That’s asking too much,” Vipul told Gulf News. “In any case we couldn’t have done that as have suspended e-visas because of coronavirus. One has to visit our office physically and apply for visa but they refused to listen or reason. In fact. the woman’s husband spoke rudely to our officers who were trying to help them. In these difficult times we are fully geared to help everyone within the ambit of government of India rules and would hope everyone to cooperate,” added Vipul.
Mukherji denied the allegation that he was rude, adding that there was no way he or his wife could have visited the Indian mission and applied for visa as they weren’t even allowed to step out of the airport. “By the time Polunina got a special permission to go out it was 11.30pm,” he said.
Travel plans gone awry
Mukherji, 41, and Polunina 34, were looking to leave the UAE as their residence visas had expired.
Initially, they planned to travel to India, but when Polunina’s OCI (Overseas Citizenship of India) application couldn’t be processed even after one month, they decided to go to Ukraine. It was ruled out after it emerged that Rana couldn’t fly there because it had closed entry for foreign citizens to prevent the spread of coronavirus. Left with no choice they decided to fly to the US. On Tuesday, they turned up at Abu Dhabi Airport with flight tickets to Chicago.
However, as luck would have it, the US immigration didn’t allow Polunina to board the plane because of her advanced pregnancy. Worse, Mukherjee said, the immigration authorities cancelled their visas for not disclosing the pregnancy.
“This left us in quandary,” said Mukherji, who ran a tech firm in Dubai.
“Even Ukraine became out of bounds for Polunina because that very night her home country imposed restriction on air passenger traffic. It was a Catch 22 situation. We couldn’t go to India, Ukraine or the US. If that was not bad enough, we couldn’t remain in the UAE as we didn’t have valid visas,” said Mukherji who spend the night at the airport.
“I am thankful to the Indian Embassy for their swift intervention and to Gulf News for bringing our story to light, Without their efforts we would have been still stuck,” he said. Polunina said she would like particularly thank Etihad staff Hassnat for going out of the way to help them.