Airpor testing
Special counters have been set up at Pakistani airports to test passengers for COVID-19 soon after they arrive on special flights. Image Credit:

Dubai: Good news for stranded Pakistanis in the UAE; the number of special flights for repatriation have been doubled to expedite the process of flying them back home.

According to a new schedule of special flights announced by the Pakistan government, as many as 29 special flights will be operated from UAE to different cities of Pakistan from June 11 to 15. Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) will operate 22 flights while UAE airlines will take passengers on seven flights.

Earlier, 27 flights were operated from UAE to Pakistan during the first 10 days of this month, i.e. from June 1 to 10. On Monday, that number was doubled. Now, 29 flights will operate in a span of just five days, from June 11 to 15.

Easing quarantine conditions

According to the Ministry of Overseas Pakistanis and Human Resources Development (MOPHRD), repatriation of Pakistanis from the UAE has been expedited following the easing of quarantine conditions for passengers arriving at the airports in Pakistan. Now, they are allowed to go home after being tested for COVID-19 after their arrival. Data is collected and they are advised to self-quarantine at home. Those found COVID-19 positive are contacted again for necessary precautions. Earlier, passengers would have to stay in dedicated quarantine facilities that are limited in capacity, hampering the flow of passengers from abroad.

20,000 repatriated from UAE

According to the MOPHRD, more than 20,000 stranded Pakistanis have so far been repatriated from the UAE between April 28 and June 5 on 120 special flights.

The latest data of the ministry reveals that the number of stranded Pakistanis who have registered at the Pakistani missions in the UAE for repatriation has increased to 82,456. It means that more than 62,000 stranded Pakistanis are still waiting to go home from the UAE and this process would take months if regular passenger flights are not started soon.

Of the total registered people, 21,843 Pakistanis have said that they have lost their jobs in the UAE whereas 34,497 said that they are going on paid or unpaid leave. Meanwhile, 6,802 have said they wanted to go back home because of emergency situations and more than 12,000 were job seekers who came to the UAE on visit visas.

Prisoners flights

The ministry says that some 394 Pakistani prisoners have also been flown back from UAE to Pakistan whereas the bodies of 214 Pakistanis (non-coronavirus cases) have also been sent back to Pakistan from the UAE during the last two months.

High fares

Meanwhile, stranded Pakistanis in UAE have been advised not to pay more than Dh1,120 for a one-way ticket home and immediately report to PIA Country Mangers in UAE against elements trying to charge them extra money. One-way fare to from Dubai to Karachi is fixed at Dh850.

A PIA spokesman, Abdullah Khan said earlier that certain unscrupulous travel agents are reportedly asking for Dh2,000 or more from the already distressed citizens, keen to come back home via the national flag carrier.

Mentioning that Prime Minister Imran Khan has taken strong notice of the reports about stranded Pakistanis being over-charged for their tickets, the PIA spokesperson said that Aviation Minister Ghulam Sarwar has directed PIA officials to address the issue on immediate basis, according to APP.

Agent mafia

According to the spokesman it was due to massive rush that PIA besides issuing tickets from its offices and special counters made operational in the Pakistani consulates in UAE and other gulf countries, had allowed certain travel agents to assist in the process.

“It was but brought into our knowledge that some of these private agents/agencies were asking people to pay Dh2,000 and at times even more for their one way journey,” Khan said and advised passengers not pay more than Dh1,120 for their flights back home from the UAE.