Workers-fly-home
S.V. Reddy (left) with the last batch of stranded Indian workers, who flew home from Dubai International Airport on Friday. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: The last batch from an initial group of 300 stranded Indian workers has finally flown home from Dubai after close coordination between social workers and officials in an effort lasting months. The eight remaining blue-collar workers, stranded since March, were repatriated on Friday from Dubai to the southern Indian city of Hyderabad. An additional three workers were due to fly from Dubai to the northern Indian city of Lucknow, later on Saturday.

The last batch, mostly from the Indian state of Telangana, did not possess passports, and some of them had overstayed their visas in the UAE for up to eight years. Their huge immigration fines were waived and they were able to travel after given outpasses and police clearance, said S.V. Reddy, convener of the Non-Resident Indian Cell in Dubai for Telangana Pradesh Congress Committee (TPCC), who has been spearheading the group’s repatriation since March. “I’m so relieved they are finally reuniting with their families back home after these difficult times. They had lost their jobs in the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic. Their passports were with their employers who were unreachable, having left for India. Some of the workers had overstayed their visas for many years,” Reddy said.

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“It is thanks to the UAE government and officials from various departments, as well as the Indian consulate in Dubai, Indian Association Sharjah [IAS], and donors who sponsored their temporary accommodation, food, and air tickets that their repatriation was made possible.”

Hard times

The plight of the 300 workers was first highlighted by Gulf News in June, when they were moved from a construction site in Sharjah where they were sleeping rough since March, to an accommodation of Sharjah Police Academy. Their repatriation began soon thereafter and in August the remaining 89 workers were moved to a workers’ accommodation of Smooth Group in Ajman. Around 32 of them were left and later shifted to apartments in Sharjah. The last batch has now been repatriated.

“It was a tough situation as they didn’t have their passports with them. The owners of their companies had left for India. After all their paperwork was in order, someone paid for their tickets to the Indian consulate, which arranged for their travel through coordinating with us and IAS. I would like to thank everyone who made this huge effort possible,” said Reddy.