nat 200617 Anta Menon is stuck in INDIA with her daughters Aisha Memon and Atiyah Memon-1592375462685
Anta Menon is stuck in India with her daughters Aisha Memon and Atiyah Memon. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: There has been a shower of approvals from the Federal Authority for Identity and Citizenship (ICA) for Indian expats planning to return to the UAE. But their plight is not over yet as there are no planned flights to bring them back to the UAE.

Adding to their woes, there is a looming deadline set on ICA approvals, which clearly stipulate that returning expats have to enter the UAE within 21 days of the date of approval. A copy of one such ICA approval with the deadline is with Gulf News.

It is not over yet

According to the General Civil Aviation Authority's latest Q&A guidance for foreign operators Revision 06, issued on June 8 , 2020, regarding a safety decision 2020-01 (Issue 15), no repatriation flight is allowed to transport non-UAE nationals back into the emirates.

nat 200617 Screen shot of ICA approval deadline-1592375465893
ICA approval shows a deadline of 21 days Image Credit: Screenshot

In the Q&A, a question under clause 6b asked: “I am planning to operate a flight for the purpose of transporting UAE and non-UAE nationals to the UAE. Am I allowed?" The answer from the Aviation Authority read: “No, your flight is not allowed, for transporting non-UAE nationals to the UAE.”

Kamini Kannan

Kamini Kannan, stranded in Bangalore since March, said: “The only option available for us to board is the Vande Bharat Mission (evacuation) flights being operated by Air India/Air India Express. However, current GCCA guidelines don’t allow these evacuation flights to bring in anyone apart from UAE Nationals without a specific approval.

“Even after being stuck in India for months, we still have no clarity as to when we can safely return to the UAE. With the deadline to travel within 21 days of ICA approval, we hope that authorities will do the needful for our return.”

A Dubai-based travel agency -- City One Tourism & Travel -- in association with the Gulf Maharashtra Business Forum arranged the first two evacuation charters to Mumbai and Pune in Maharashtra.

Punit Shah

“The flights carried 377 passengers to these destinations. With the aim of reducing the cost to passengers from the UAE we tried to seek approvals for the return segment as well, but unfortunately we were unable to receive approvals to bring passengers back to the UAE. These are testing times and I hope both governments support the noble cause of allowing repatriation of passengers on both sectors,” said Punit Shah, general manager.

Aadil Rafik Memon has been separated from his wife and two children since March 15. A resident of UAE since 2013, Memom urged authorities to arrange chartered flights to bring returning Indian expats with ICA approvals. Memom said he was happy to receive ICA approvals for his wife and children stranded in Mumbai, India, to return to the UAE on June 14. “I am concerned now as the approval comes with a limited validity. With no planned flights, will this approval lapse and do we have to go through the same process again?”

Another stranded Indian expat Rajendra K. Saple in Belgaum, Karnataka, said his wife and children in the UAE are worried sick as to when he can return to the UAE. It is going to be almost four months since Saple left the UAE on a family visit to see his ailing father. “I got my ICA approval on June 14 and according to the deadline, I have to return by July 5.”

Javed Khatib and wife Rukhsana are stuck in India away from their three daughters
Javed Khatib and wife Rukhsana are stuck in India away from their three daughters Image Credit: Supplied

Javed Mohamed Saleh Khatib, a long-time resident of UAE since 1993, and his wife have been separated from their three daughters since March 15. Khatib and his wife Rukhsana are stranded in Mumbai while their three daughters have been living alone in the UAE. “My father was critically ill and passed away on March 19. Like most others, my ICA approval also came on June 14. I am now waiting for both the governments to start international flights and allow us stranded expats to return home to the UAE. “

Parag Savani with his wife and son
Parag Savani with his wife Shikha and their two-year-old son. Image Credit: Supplied

In the case of Parag Savani, he is eagerly waiting for the return of his wife Shikha who has been stranded in India for the past three months. Parag is in the UAE with his two year-old son Divam, while his wife awaits news on flights to bring her back to UAE. Shikha, who got an ICA approval on June 18, is concerned that if she is not able to travel back to the UAE in time before the validity ends, she may have to start the process all over again. Parag said: “I cannot imagine this. My son is only two years old. He cannot be separated from his mother for long.”