Pak passengers
Pakistan Consul General Ahmed Amjad Ali talking to passengers travelling on a special flight from Dubai International Airport. Image Credit:

Dubai: As part of the fifth phase of repatriation, more than 3,000 stranded Pakistanis will be flown back to their country from the UAE during the next 10 days on special flights.

Pakistan has announced the operation of at least nine more special flights from May 11 to 21 to bring back its citizens from the UAE. Of these flights, Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) will operate seven while UAE-based airlines are scheduled to operate two flights. More than 7,000 people have already been repatriated on 21 flights since April 18.

Six flights on Sunday

At least 2,800 passengers are scheduled to fly on six special flights being operated on Sunday, May 10. Four flights including one each to Karachi and Islamabad, and two to Faisalabad are being operated by the PIA while UAE-based airlines are scheduled to carry passengers to Multan and Peshawar on Sunday.

Pakistan has announced a total of 31 flights from May 11 to 21 to bring back its stranded citizens from around the world.

How to get tickets

Tickets for PIA flights are booked following the recommendations of the Pakistani missions, which have prepared lists of stranded Pakistanis on priority basis. Those who are compelled to travel due to emergencies including pregnant women and patients and those who have lost jobs are given priority, followed by job seekers who came on visit visas and those who are on unpaid leaves due to COVID-19 pandemic.

However, a spokesperson at the Pakistan Consulate General in Dubai said they are not coordinating the special flights being operated by UAE-based airlines. “These flights are being directly handled by the UAE government,” he added.

7,000 repatriated from UAE

“Pakistan has repatriated maximum number of its citizens from the UAE since the special flights operation started on April 18. We have flown back more than 7,000 stranded people so far [in] the last 22 days,” said Pakistan Ambassador Ghulam Dastgir. He said special flights would continue to operate until the regular passenger flight operation resumes.

According to the new special flight schedule, PIA will operate one flight to Karachi on May 11; two flights to Faisalabad on May 14; one flight to Peshawar on May 18 and one flight to Lahore; and two to Faisalabad on May 21.

UAE-based airlines are scheduled to operate one flight to Multan on May 14 and one to Islamabad on May 21.

More than 69,000 stranded Pakistanis have registered with the Pakistani diplomatic missions in UAE for repatriation so far. This list includes around 63,000 people who have registered with the Pakistan Consulate General in Dubai. Pakistan Consul General Ahmed Amjad Ali earlier advised stranded people to be patient and wait for their turn.

100,000 expats registered

According to the Pakistan Foreign Office, more than 100,000 overseas Pakistanis seek to return to the country but their repatriation can only be expedited after the provision of quarantine facilities by provincial governments.

Foreign Office spokesperson Ayesha Farooqui said an overwhelming majority of those were the expatriates seeking to return from the UAE. She added that lack of quarantine facilities impeded the return of stranded Pakistanis.

“There is a lack of quarantine facilities to bring back Pakistanis,” she told reporters. “Consultations are under way with the provinces for quarantine facilities,” she said.

She said that more than 60,000 Pakistanis want to return from the UAE and another 15,000 from Saudi Arabia. She added that the passengers were required to spend three days in quarantine on return to Pakistan and could go home once their COVID-19 test was found to be negative.