Stranded passengers
Pakistan Consul General in Dubai Ahmed Amjad Ali talking to first batch of stranded passengers who flew from Dubai Airport on Saturday evening on a special PIA flight to Islamabad. Image Credit:

Dubai: The repatriation process of Pakistanis stranded in the UAE has begun as a special PIA flight carrying the first batch of 227 passengers took off on Saturday evening from Dubai International Airport.

The flight left  Dubai Airport at 7pm for Islamabad on April 18. "F irst PIA flight carrying 227 stranded passengers from Dubai and Northern Emirates left for Islamabad today at 1900 hours," tweeted Consulate General of Pakistan.

More special flights will be announced later. A PIA official clarified that the schedule for the 11 special flights, which was announced on Thursday between UAE and Pakistan, stands cancelled; a new flight plan will be announced in a day or so.

“The Pakistan government is working on a new plan for special flights including PIA and the UAE-based airlines,” said a senior diplomat. “Most probably, more special flights will start from April 20 but I must advise stranded people to be patient and wait for the announcement,” he said.

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A large number of stranded Pakistanis gathered outside their consulate even on Friday and Saturday demanding the consulate send them back. Some of them were even carrying their bags as they said they have no place to live. Most of them who gathered outside the consulate are those who came on visit visas or lost jobs and want to go home.

More than 40,000 Pakistanis have registered with their consulate demanding to go back home. They included those who came on visit visas those who lost jobs, those who were asked to go on unpaid leave and also those who want to go home for the holidays.

Pakistan Consul General Ahmed Amjad Ali appealed to the stranded Pakistanis last week not to come to the consulate violating the travel restrictions imposed in Dubai. He said that the consulate has the data of all those who have registered to go back home.

The consulate is calling people according to the priority. “We have already booked 200 passengers for the flight on Saturday and will call more people as soon as more special flights are announced,” said another consulate official.

Consul General Ali said everyone who has registered with the consulate or the embassy would be repatriated but they will have to wait as it would take time to send them back home due to limited flight operation. He revealed that the number of people who have registered with the consulate demanding to go back home has jumped to 40,000. “The repatriation process has begun but you will have to wait for you turn,” he reiterated.

Meanwhile, Pakistan government is working on plans to increase the capacity of airport to receive up to 8000 passengers per week from abroad. Every passenger who arrive in Pakistan will have to stay in quarantine for at least seven days.

Earlier, Shahid Ali Moghal, PIA’s Regional Manager in UAE, told Gulf News: “Initially, the special PIA flights will be operated from Dubai to Islamabad but later it will start landing at other airports  as soon as the necessary arrangements for quarantine of passengers are finalised.