Dubai: Four Indian vistors from the UAE, including two women and a five-year-old boy, who were stuck for around five months in Oman’s Musandam following closure of the border, returned home in Kerala on Tuesday.
Gulf News first reported the situation of Jayakumar Ramakrishna Pillai, Shahala Nasreen, Beema Thameem and her five-year-old son Aymen Ayan on July 23. They sought help from authorities to cross the land border and catch a repatriation flight to India from the UAE.
The four raced against time as they initially had until August 10 lest they would be charged with overstaying fines, which are Dh200 for the first day and Dh100 for each day after that.
UAE authorities have eventually announced the extension for visit visa holders to leave the country without paying overstay fines for a month starting August 11. But the four did not have to wait for that as they have already reached home, thanks to the assistance from social workers at AKCAF Volunteer Group and personnel from the Indian Consulate.
Speaking to Gulf News on Tuesday afternoon, Deepu A S and Mohammad Ali Parakadavu from AKCAF Volunteer Group, an organisation of UAE-based alumni of various colleges in Kerala, said Jayakumar took a 9.30pm Emirates flight to Kochi on Monday while Shahala, Beema and Aymen flew from Ras Al Khaimah International Airport to Calicut on early Tuesday morning via Spice Jet.
“The four are now under home quarantine and with their respective families,” Deepu said.
Relaxed at the airport
Deepu said he was elated to get messages from the four who all felt relaxed at the airport hours before their respective flights.
“Jayakumar messaged me and said he felt like he was over the moon waiting at DXB Terminal 3 for the boarding call,” shared Deepu, adding: “We exchanged numerous messages before they left Oman and the time I learnt they had already crossed the Dibba Al Hisn border was one of the best moments in my volunteering work.”
“On Monday morning we got confirmation from UAE authorities that the four can enter the UAE. We were informed that they had to be at the border by 2.30pm. The procedure was fast and after less than half an hour, the four were on their way to Dubai and RAK airports,” Deepu recounted.
The four previously booked flights but have already lapsed. New tickets were paid for by the visitors — Jayakumar took the remaining business class seat while the three paid Dh1,000 each for their tickets.
Asheeq, husband of Shahala who is based in Musandam, thanked the volunteers and officials who helped his wife return home. “God is great! The flight was smooth. Shahala is now back with her parents and being home-quarantined. She is happy and relieved to be back home in Kerala,” Asheeq said.
Shahala and Neema visited their respective husbands who worked in Musandam in early March using their UAE tourist visas. UAE tourist visa holders are free to enter Musandam for 10 days.
But the UAE-Oman border was closed on March 14 due to COVID-19 restrictions. As a result, they were not able to return to the UAE.
Jayakumar, a long-time UAE resident who left Dubai in January 2019, entered the UAE in January this year on a visit visa and from Dubai he travelled to a resort in Musandam as a guest but was also stranded after the borders were closed.
Their circumstances were reported by Gulf News and caught the attention of social workers, Indian Consulate officials and UAE authorities, who worked for their subsequent repatriation.