Sharjah: Broke and homeless, Mukesh Kumar gazed vacantly at the sidewalk where his roommates sat along a curb - shoulders slumped with despair and heavy bags and a look of resignation written all over their faces.
Kumar is part of a group of 22 Indian men who came to the UAE looking for a job last month but are now stuck in Sharjah’s Rolla area because of the coronavirus, with no money and nowhere to go.
On Friday, the men ran out of rations. On Saturday, they also lost the roof over their head after being evicted out of their bed spaces due to unpaid rents.
A similar fate awaits Syed Arshad, a jobseeker from Pakistan who’s stranded in Deira, Dubai, since February.
Abandoned and angry
Left in a limbo, thousands of men like Kumar and Arshad feel angered and betrayed with the lack of support from their governments.
Arshad said he’s among 20,000 odd Pakistanis who registered at the consulate this month to return back to his country.
“Our mission has offered to give us rations. I appreciate that, but all I want is to go back to Pakistan. I have barely any money left. I don’t know how I will manage once I have spent it,” wondered the 27-year-old graphic designer.
Kumar said the Indian consulate arranged food provisions after one of them made an appeal for help on twitter.
Haider Ali, who sent out the tweet, has a diploma in hotel management. He said they have exhausted the rations and haven’t eaten anything since Friday. “We have been assured that provisions like rice, pulses and veggies will reach us soon but how are we going to cook them when we have no place to stay,” he said.
Danish, who also has a diploma in hotel management, said they are desperate to go home. “We know that India has banned all international flights till April 14 and focused with the situation in the country but surely they can also do something about us as well,” he said
“There’s thousands of us here with no income and no information on when or how we’ll be return,” said Kumar.
UAE steps in with relief efforts
Most of these men are now dependent on Good Samaritans and local charity organisations
The Community Solidarity Fund Against COVID-19 announced by the Islamic Affairs and Charitable Activities Department (IACAD) aims to facilitate community contributions and donations towards combating the coronavirus outbreak.
The Fund seeks to forge collaboration with government entities, charity associations and members of society to help mitigate economic, social, and health challenges in the current period.
Charities that have distributed food in recent days include Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Humanitarian and Charity Establishment, Beit Al Khair Society, Dar Al The Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Humanitarian and Charity Establishment distributed 1,500 daily meals besides providing essential supplies to 500 workers. Dar Al Ber Society distributed over 9,200 daily meals in various areas in Dubai.
A total of 8,229 daily meals were distributed by Beit Al Khair Society in Hatta, Jebel Ali, Naif and Satwa while Tarahum Charity Foundation distributed 12,635 meals in the Naif area.
“The humanitarian assistance to people affected by the current circumstances provides them relief and a sense of stability. Contributions like these reflect the UAE’s ethos of providing aid to everyone without discrimination,” said Ahmad Darwish Al Muhairi, Executive Director of the Charitable Work Sector at the Islamic Affairs and Charitable Activities Department
He also acknowledged the efforts of community members in mobilising signficant resources to help affected individuals. The Islamic Affairs and Charitable Activities Department also supervised the distribution of meals to ensure compliance with health and safety requirements.
Indian court hears plea to fly back stranded countrymen
The High Court of Kerala on Saturday sought the response of the central government of India on a public interest litigation seeking the return of Indian expats stranded in the UAE because of the coronavirus.
The petition was filed by Kerala Muslim Cultural Centre (KMCC) and a UAE based travel provider.
The court has asked the government to inform it about any policy decision taken with respect to allowing the return of its citizens from abroad in light of the pandemic.The matter will be next heard on April 17.
The petitioners claimed the Indian government had refused permission to chartered flight services even though some airlines were ready to operate special flights. Appearing for the petitioners advocate Haris Beeran said the petition was with respect to those classes of Indians who are stuck in the UAE following the expiry of their visas. “Since they are out of money and resources, they are facing a lot of hardships there, submitted the counsel.
In response the bench pointed out to government advisory which said overseas Indians should stay back until the situation improves.
The bench also asked the government to apprise it about the welfare meaures taken by the Indian Embassy in the UAE for the wellbeing of its citizens
On Friday a petition seeking chartered flights to fly back Indians stranded in the UAE was also filed before the Supreme Court of India by advocate Jose Abraham on behalf of migrant welfare society Pravasi Legal Cell.