Dubai: Nineteen Indians have been stuck in Dubai airport for three weeks in a real life tale that has echoes of Tom Hanks’ smash-hit 2004 Hollywood movie The Terminal.
Most were in transit when India stopped inbound flights due to the coronavirus pandemic. The men roughed it out on airport benches for the first few days. On March 21 they were tested for COVID-19. Found negative, they were shifted to Dubai International Airport Hotel on March 25 and have been there since.
Among the passengers is Arun Singh, 37, who was due to board the 4am Emirates flight to Ahmedabad on March 22 when he fell asleep in the waiting area and missed the final call by a few minutes.
Curiously, sleep is pretty much what he does for most of his day. “I have been eating and sleeping and eating and sleeping ever since they put us here. I am comfortable but am desperate to go home,” said Singh, an IT professional at a UAE bank.
- Coronavirus: Stranded passengers leaving UAE get special sticker on their passport
- Coronavirus: UAE has offered to fly stranded Indians: Ambassador to India
- COVID-19: Stranded expats in the UAE want to go home
- COVID-19: Lack of quarantine and testing facilities in Pakistan hamper repatriation of stranded expatriates in UAE
- 415 Filipino sailors stranded in UAE flown home
Unlike other stranded passengers Singh has a UAE residency visa holder but he can’t exit the airport through arrivals because of the suspension of visas.
Singh said he still doesn’t know when he’d be able to fly back. “Every few days I send messages to the Indian consulate officials but am yet to hear back from them,” he rued. “Today, I came across a heartwarming news report which said that UAE has offered to repatriate Indians who are stuck in the UAE. I hope that happens soon,” said Singh.
Another passenger Deepak Gupta, who’s stranded since March 18, said he’s worried about his pregnant wife in New Delhi. “She needs me by her side. Soon I will complete one month at the airport, I am beginning to lose hope,” said Gupta, an executive at a multi-national company in Gurgaon, Haryana.
Like several of his fellow countrymen Gupta flew into Dubai from Europe and had a connecting Emirates EK 510 flight to New Delhi later that evening.
However, he wasn’t allowed to board the plane as India had imposed a ban on all incoming passengers from Europe.