DUBAI: Expat parents, whose children had to cancel their trip back home to the UAE following the suspension of entry to all pre-issued visit and residence visa holders, said they are a worried lot.
Pragya Handa, 25, a post-graduate student at the Fletcher School at Tufts Boston, was booked nearly 10 days ago on the Emirates flight to Dubai.
“Pragya just started her Masters in Diplomacy this Fall. Following the suspension of classes and commencement of remote learning, with campus shutdown, she decided to return to Dubai and made the booking nearly 10 days ago. She called up the airline office after the new directive that came early Thursday and was told although the flight was scheduled to leave Boston, she could not take it. Her new ticket is for April 2, 14 days later. Pragya has schooled in Dubai and has a residence visa here.”
Her mother Shalini Handa said: “Although I know it might be a good thing for her not to travel right now, the thought that she is alone and has to cope with this by herself has got me worried.”
Another Dubai expat M. Fernandes is worried for his sons Marco, 23 and Santiago 19, both stranded in Florida, USA and Glasgow, Scotland.
Marco is enrolled at the University of Tampa Florida, while Santiago began his first-year undergraduate course at the University of Strathlycde, Glasgow, Scotland.
Fernandes told Gulf News: “We hold dual passports from Portugal and South Africa. So my sons could easily return home to Dubai with the visa-on-arrival facility. Both stay in dormitories off their campuses and since their classes went online and the campus closed, we thought it would be better they return home. They can stay in the dormitories only for as long as the end of this academic year and will have to vacate at by end-May. I am worried as my US-based son has his medical insurance only until the end of the academic year (end-May), while Santiago can avail of the NHS cover being an EU passport holder. Both boys are alone as we have no family or any kind of social support in either place.”
There are many expats like Hand and Fernandes for whom the overnight travel ban has come as a rude shock.
Arpita Bhattacharya, also Dubai-based, was confident her son Snehal, who is a second year student at Toronto University, would be able to return as they had a visit visa issued for him on March 16.
“We had niggling doubts and when my husband went to an Amer centre to check on Wednesday, he was told that my son would not be allowed in. Now Snehal is really stressed and worried as there are very few children on the huge campus. The university has been cooperative and said as long as they had a valid reason to stay, he would be provided food. But he cannot bear the thought of complete social distance and isolation. I want him to move to my friend’s place but he is not yet convinced. I just hope this complete block is lifted soon.”