Dubai: Indian and Pakistani airlines have started flying back Dubai tourists who were stranded at the Dubai International Airport after being denied entry for not following immigration requirements.
Airlines and travel agents have also begun to strictly implement the entry requirements for passengers flying on tourist visas to Dubai which include confirmed return ticket, hotel reservation and enough funds to support their stay.
Gulf News had first reported about more than 180 Pakistani passengers being stuck at the Dubai International Airport since Tuesday. The number of Pakistani passengers stranded at the airport had crossed 300 on Wednesday and 500 later, according to the Consulate General of Pakistan in Dubai.
“There were around 545 passengers who were stranded,” Consul General of Pakistan in Dubai, Ahmed Amjad Ali, told Gulf News on Thursday.
“Our team has been at the airport to help people round the clock. We provided food also to the stranded passengers. We are working with the airlines to send them back in batches. As of now 169 passengers have been sent back,” he said.
Airline sources said that there were hundreds of passengers of different nationalities, mainly from the labour-sending Asian and African countries, who were denied entry.
On Thursday, the Indian Consulate in Dubai confirmed to Gulf News that more than 100 passengers from India were among the stranded passengers.
“We have come to notice that more than 100 passengers from India were stranded. Some of them were later cleared for entry while some were deported. The remaining people are in the process of being sent back to India. We were told that food was provided by authorities and airlines. Our officials are at the airport to offer further assistance to them,” said Neeraj Agrawal, consul for Press, Information and Culture.
The diplomat said the passengers either did not have enough cash or proof of hotel booking or reference from relatives.
“We appeal to visit visa holders to strictly adhere to the rules. People coming for genuine tourism purpose should follow these requirements. Those coming for other purposes should come only on proper visas.”
Agrawal pointed out that the clause requiring enough resources to support visitors’ stay is an old one. “We are in touch with the airlines. They have already started taking action and stopping people from coming if they are not fulfilling these requirements.”
The Pakistani Consul General also said that instructions have been given back home to take preventive action. “People will be asked to strictly follow the regulations before flying.”
Airlines and travel agencies said they have started strictly implementing the entry requirements for passengers flying on tourist visas to Dubai.
Some of them said the strict enforcement of tourist visa requirements will ensure only genuine tourists are flying into Dubai.
Ansar, who is among the Indian passengers stranded at Terminal 3, said more than 30 passengers who flew with him from Kannur in Kerala were stuck.
“We boarded the flight around 6.30pm. All our travel documents were in place. If we had been told to carry Dh2000 with us, we would have done that. But, there was no such instruction. When we reached here past 9.15pm last night, our passports were taken and we were not allowed entry.”
He said some of the passengers were job seekers, while some like him came on visit visa to take up new job offers. The stranded passengers also included some expats from Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, he said.
“We have people outside to arrange the money. But we can’t do it without going outside. We can’t think of going back home in such a situation. We urge the authorities to help us,” he said.
Industry sources said strict measures in screening tourists to ensure they have enough funds and proper accommodation to support their stay will prevent blue-collar workers from flying into Dubai on visit visa to look for jobs and getting stranded.
Travel agents said they are now educating potential travellers about the need to carry at least Dh2,000 with them, have confirmed return tickets, hotel bookings and also to dress up decently.
“It is important to prove that they are genuine tourists. Officials can sense it even from the way the people are dressed,” pointed out Afi Ahmed of Smart Travels who released a YouTube vlog educating passengers about the need for following tourist visa regulations.
He said the move will also prevent expats from Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, who are opting to be quarantined in Dubai before flying back to their country of residence, from getting stranded if they don’t find tickets for their onward journeys.
The General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs (GDRFA) in Dubai, which had confirmed travellers from Pakistan getting denied entry at Dubai International Airport due to non-compliance with entry requirements for tourist visas, had also clarified that these travelers did not have a valid hotel reservation or a relative’s reference, nor did they have a return ticket booking, as required by the UAE immigration rules. GDRFA also said that the vast majority of passengers that are compliant with the visa rules and arrive at Dubai International Airport face no delays upon entry.