Dubai: All consular services at the Pakistan Consulate in Dubai will remain suspended until further notice, said a senior diplomat.
The Pakistan Consulate had shut its doors for consular services on April 6, following the UAE government’s guidelines on movement restrictions. “We will advise expatriates to avoid visiting the consulate because no consular services are being offered," Ahmad Amjad Ali, the Consul General of Pakistan in Dubai, said while talking to journalists on Monday. He said that access roads to the consulate area was still closed and people were not allowed to visit the consulate.
“Also, we are not offering any passport or ID card renewal services until further notice,” he added.
63,000 Pakistanis registered
He also appealed to stranded Pakistanis not to gather outside the consulate building because it would not benefit them in any way. “We have registered more than 63,000 Pakistanis who want to go back home from the UAE. You have to be patient and wait for your turn. We have prepared lists based on set priorities and will call you individually to advise you on buying airline tickets to go back home,” he said.
Consul General Ali further said that he, along with his officers and staff members, were working around the clock to help the community, especially those who were stranded and those who needed food.
He also briefed the media about the steps taken so far to help community members who have been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic in UAE.
What has been done so far?
The first repatriation flight was operated on March 23 to evacuate 101 passengers who were stranded at Dubai and Abu Dhabi airports due to suspension of flight operations in Pakistan from March 21.
Then, there was a long gap. The consulate started registering stranded Pakistanis and was overwhelmed with the huge number of people who wanted to go back home.
More than 63,000 people registered with the Pakistan Consulate in Dubai and thousands others at the Pakistan Embassy in Abu Dhabi.
Among those who got themselves registered for repatriation, around 11,000 were job-seekers who had come to the UAE on visit visas, while almost half the total number of applicants were those who had lost their jobs or were ordered to go on unpaid leave.
Lists were prepared based on priority. Those who had lost their jobs, those who needed medical attention, pregnant women and those who had come on visit visas were high on priority, followed by those who were sent on unpaid leave and paid leave as well.
People started crowding outside the consulate in Dubai and the embassy in Abu Dhabi, demanding them to be sent back home. The consulate staff members also came under criticism for allegedly "selling tickets at higher prices".
Ticket prices revised
Ticket prices were reduced after the consul general and the community members raised the issue with the officials concerned in Pakistan and with Pakistan International Airline.
Repatriation flights started on April 18 and so far more than 4,500 stranded Pakistanis have been sent back home. A total of around 8,000 Pakistanis will be flown to Pakistan from the UAE on special flights until May 10. More special flights are expected to be announced later this week.
Repatriation of bodies
The consulate has also sent 56 bodies of Pakistanis from the UAE. However, bodies of COVID-19 victims are not allowed to be transported. More than 400 prisoners were also flown back to Pakistan last month on two special flights.
The Consulate staff members are currently busy handling the repatriation process and distributing free ration packages among needy community members. So far, the consulate, with the help of the community, has distributed 4,200 ration packs among destitute Pakisanis across the UAE. One ration pack is believed to be enough for a family of four or five to survive for 15 days.
Consul General Ali said he expected the situation to get back to normal later this month. Regular flights are expected to resume after May 15 — the last date until which flights are scheduled to remain suspended in Pakistan. He also said that quarantine facilities in different cities across Pakistan were being expanded to accommodate more passengers.
He advised Pakistanis to visit the website www.covid.gov.pk for flight information and follow the instructions issued by Pakistani diplomatic missions.