Dubai: The parents of around 120 students stranded abroad have banded together and made an appeal to the government to let their sons and daughters come home, despite the travel restrictions due to coronavirus (COVID-19)
In a letter addressed to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation (MoFAIC), obtained by Gulf News, the parents of the stranded students said: “(Our children) are unable to travel to UAE due to the recent suspension of travel announced by the UAE government. As the universities (have closed) down due to the outbreak of COVID-19, they have been asked to return to their home country or country of residence.
“They are living with minimal support system and in isolation. Many of them are finding it difficult to continue due to shutdown or lockdown announced by various countries,” added the UAE-based parents.
The parents pleaded: “In this difficult situation and to safeguard the children, we kindly request (the government) to kindly allow them to travel to the UAE safely and immediately. We will furnish all necessary details as required by the government to arrange for their safe return to the UAE.”
The parents have also committed to “abide by the directives of the government and follow the procedures to contain the spread of COVID-19.”
Dubai resident and Indian expat Rahul Lal, whose 20-year old daughter, Prarthna Lal, is stuck at a student accommodation at St. George’s University of London, told Gulf News on Tuesday: “My daughter is alone as all her friends have already left. We have no friends and family in London to check on her. We are very worried and scared as the situation is worsening each day. She is requesting her accommodation to extend her stay on a daily basis. The grocery store is open but that is all she has access to.”
“We have registered for help on both MoFAIC website and the call centre. We sincerely request the authorities to help bring her back home,” Lal added.
The parents of Vikram Sekar, 19, first year Business Finance management student at University of Kent in Canterbury, also reached out to Gulf News. They said: “Our son holds a valid UAE resident visa. We booked his ticket from London to Dubai on March 19, the same day the travel restriction was announced.
“His university is closed and most of his friends left the accommodation. But many students are stuck in UK and I hope the UAE authorities can allow a special flight to bring them all back home in Dubai so that they can stay with their families in this difficult period,” Sekar added.
Another UAE resident and Indian expat, Alpa Piyush Doshi, appealed to let her son, Shashwat Piyush Doshi, come to Dubai. “My son couldn’t board the flight and we booked him a flight to Mumbai. My son has moved from one place to another and I sincerely urge authorities to my kid be with us in this most vulnerable time.”
The mother of Shanai Tanwar, a student at University of British Columbia in Vancouver likewise appealed: “My daughter was supposed to arrive on Friday. But due to the ban, she wasn’t allowed to travel to Dubai and we had to reroute her tickets to New Delhi. She is in India now but staying alone in a hotel. She has been asked to check out but she has nowhere else to go. My daughter will be safer here with us,” said Pooja.
The parents of Jason Daswani, 21, a second year Maths and statistics student at London School of Economics, said: “This is extremely disturbing. Children need to be with their parents at this unsettling time.”
Neeta and Dilip Daswani said: “Our son was booked to return on Friday after his flight was cancelled on the 19th. We rebooked him again to travel on the 26th but we just received an email tha all flights have been cancelled. Our son has been moving from one place to another. We hope he can come home soon. We have already got a separate flat for him to self quarantine.”
Another parent Marclino Fernandes said that his two sons Marco and Santiago were both stranded at universities in Tampa, US and Strathclyde, UK respectively.
"My eldest is in his last year, which finishes in May and after that he has nowhere to stay and no support,"said Marclino. "He's a Portuguese passport holder so cannot return to his parents via a visa on arrival because he no longer has a UAE residency visa.So he's stuck in the USA with no family support and all other students have already vacated the university campus."
Marclino added of his other son, "My youngest is in his first year in Scotland and has a Portuguese passport with a valid UAE residency visa. He tried to board a return flight on Tuesday but was denied.
"We had registered Santiago under the MOFAIC's Twajudi service a couple days ago, however they didn't contact us or my son yet, they have now cited technical issues therefore no action was taken to inform airlines. They have requested that I re-register which I've done and now I've received a confirmation.
"Santiago has now had to return to an empty residence hall, whereby he has no social support or family members, extremely distraught. This is his first time of being away from home."
Letter from a Dubai resident in Ottawa
I am Mohamed Faris, a resident from Dubai studying at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada. Life has been a rollercoaster these past few weeks for my friends and me.
We are sharing information and keeping ourselves updated on the crisis. I along with many students had travel plans to go back home but unfortunately could not travel due to the restrictions to combat the pandemic.
We extremely appreciate the efforts taken by the UAE government on the pandemic and are following the guidelines issued by them. But these tough times have put our homesickness at its peak.
In my conversation with the UAE embassy in Ottawa, I was reassured for any assistance I required and instructed me to follow the given instructions (calling the hotline number and registering at Tawajudi resident portal).
We would, however, highly appreciate if we are given a time period to travel back home before things escalate and flights are grounded.
I hope my worry is resonated and given a platform for those many thousand students waiting to get back to their families.
Mohamed Faris, 18, 1st year Mechanical Engineering at Carleton University in Ottawa
- For humanitarian and emergency cases to ensure their safe return to the UAE, please contact
- Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation
- Toll free number - 80044444
- Hotline numbers: +97192083344 and +97124965228
- Website: https://www.mofaic.gov.ae/en/Services/Twajudi-Resident
- GDRRFA- Dubai call people to call Amer center at 8005111 for their enquiries
- Ministry of Foreign Affairs urged holders of valid residence permits abroad to call on these numbers
- You can also visit the customer service desk at Terminal 3 to register your son or daughter's case on humanitarian grounds
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation (MoFAIC) said it wasn’t the UAE’s responsibility to fly residents back to the UAE but said they would facilitate entry on humanitarian grounds if students were able to get flights. They called on parents to call the above numbers to register and present themselves at airport immigration desks. Regarding hotlines, a spokesperson say parents must remain patient and that calls would be answered. “We have solved a lot of cases so far but there are a lot of people stranded everywhere,” said the official.
Gulf News knows of 10 students currently stranded at Dubai Airport for the past 48 hours after flying from various countries. They are currently being looked after by airport staff while their Covid-19 test results come back.