20200709 shihabdeen
Shihabdeen with his wife and two kids Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: The spectre of losing jobs and businesses looms large over several UAE residents as they remain grounded in India for over four months now.

Many have written to the Indian government expressing their fear and demanding immediate resumption of flights to the UAE.

Last week, India’s aviation regulator extended the ban on international flights until July 31, shattering the hopes of UAE-bound Indians anxiously waiting to return and resume work.

Scheduled international passenger flights have remained suspended in India since March 23 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

As the threat of loss of jobs and businesses becomes real with each passing day, the patience of expats is wearing thinner.

One expat Shihabdeen stuck in Mumbai said he feared his job may be terminated as he has been away since March. “I am on unpaid leave and I am very much worried. If my company terminates my contract, what would be the situation of my family? They will be paralysed.”

Many have taken to the social media to vent their concerns.

“Even after several requests, tweets, calls, nobody seems to care. Why are #UAEResidentsInIndia not allowed to travel from #IndiatoUAE?” said one resident, “Enough is Enough – it’s been 4 months & all we get to hear is talks are going on,” she added.

An IT engineer in New Delhi said his manager has threatened to fire him if he doesn’t report to work by next fortnight. “I rang him up yesterday but he refused to listen or reason. He said if the company could do without me for four months, then it’s evident that I am not useful to them,“ he said.

A Keralite who has been away from his fruits and vegetable shop in Sharjah since early March said his business is at the risk of collapsing in his absence. “I have paid around Dh25,000 towards rent and utilities for a shop that remains shut mostly. When business in dull you require an extra effort to keep it going but there’s little I could do from here,” said the 45-year-old from Chennai.

A woman who runs a Whatsapp support group of UAE residents stranded in India said she’s appalled by the apathy of her government.

Expats in countries like Pakistan, UK, US, Sri Lanka and Canada have managed to fly back to the UAE. We are the only ones left behind,” she rued.

A sales manager at an electronic giant in Dubai said he travelled to his hometown Bengaluru in mid-March hoping to return by the month end. “Five months later, I am still here. Initially my company said they will treat my absence as annual leave. Later, they put me on unpaid leave. The longer I stay away from the UAE, the more I lose. This isn’t just about piling expenses like house rents and loans, but also about my reputation in the company. We have been held hostage in our own country,” he said.

Desperate to return to the UAE, 12 Indians recently booked tickets on a Vande Bharat Mission flight from Delhi to Bahrain and planned to come from there.

They made the bookings through a travel agent. The hopeful passengers forked out Rs45,000 (Dh2,200) for the air fare and another Rs16,000 (Dh780) to cover the cost of their flight from Bahrain to Dubai.

As it turned out, the airline didn’t allow them to board the flight saying they aren’t residents of Bahrain. The passengers who had travelled to Delhi from cities like Srinagar, Jaipur and Chandigarh lost their money. All they got towards tax refunds was Dh145 each.