Some of the stranded passengers along with an ICF volunteer (centre in safety vest) at the free accommodation provided to them on Thursday Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: With Saudi Arabia and Kuwait closing borders and shutting airports to prevent the new strain of coronavirus, several expats travelling to those countries from their home countries are stuck in the UAE after their quarantine period.

Free accommodation is being offered to many such expats who took the indirect route of flying via the UAE to Saudi Arabia and Kuwait since there were no direct flights from their home countries. Around 300 stranded passengers will receive this help. They were caught off guard with the news about flight suspensions in their countries of residence, after finishing a 14-day mandatory quarantine in hotels and other paid accommodation in the UAE.

Dubai Markaz Centre’s volunteers’ wing Indian Cultural Foundation (ICF) tied up with construction firm Aasa Group to arrange the free accommodation and food to passengers who did not have the means to continue their stay in the UAE after finishing quarantine, said Dr. Abdul Salam Saquafi, public relations manager at the entity.

All taken care of

“We managed to rent a building in Dubai Investment Park that can accommodate 300 people for two weeks," he said. "Transportation has been arranged to pick up the passengers as and when they have to check out from their hotel rooms. Food is also provided for free and they have the facilities for laundry also.”

He said necessary permissions were taken from the authorities to arrange the accommodation for the stranded passengers.

“They are our guests here - we need to welcome them and help them when they are in a crisis," he added. "There are good hearted businessmen who support such causes.

"That is how we collaborated with the Mohamed Salih C.P, chairman and managing director of Aasa Group, under the directive of India’s Grand Mufti Sheikh Abubakr Ahmad who is the patron of our Markaz Centre.”

He said the volunteers managed to find the stranded passengers after setting up a WhatsApp group for the purpose and sending the link to several other groups.

Timely help

Some of the stranded passengers, mainly workers, who were shifted to the free accommodation, said they were thankful for the gesture. Mohammed Musthafa and Sreejith. K, who work in a restaurant in Saudi Arabia, said they were caught unawares of the flight suspension.

“We are four people working in the same restaurant. We spent around Rs70,000 for the ‘quarantine package’ in the UAE which includes everything for our 14-day quarantine here before flying to Kuwait,” said Musthafa.

Caught unawares

Sreejith said they were ready to fly after finishing the quarantine on December 20. “We did the COVID-19 test on December 21 and the travel agency sent a vehicle to transport us from the Ajman hotel to the airport on December 22. That is when the news broke that flights have been suspended.”

Sreejith pointed out that they would have to do a COVID-19 test once again as the negative test result they received would not be valid when they fly again.

K.C. Salam, a driver at a Kuwait airport, said he had gone home seven months ago and couldn’t return all these days.

“I was in a group of 12 people who took a package to fly to Kuwait from here on December 23," he said. "We had to leave the accommodation provided in Karama by the travel agency yesterday. Luckily, we got to know about ICF providing this help and contacted them last night. We were shifted to this building last night itself.”

Though the majority of those stranded and contacted ICF for help hail from the south Indian state of Kerala, Dr. Saquafi said the organisation is open to support anyone in similar situation. He said 60 people were already shifted to the accommodation and 125 were expected to arrive later.

“People who need support can email us at,” he added,