Dubai: Indian expats in the UAE wishing to fly home are now confused about the online submission of their details for repatriation after India introduced a new layer of online procedures for overseas passengers.
All Indians returning from the UAE during the COVID-19 pandemic had to mandatorily register their details with the Indian missions since the beginning of the repatriation flights under Vande Bharat Mission from May 7.
On Sunday, India announced another layer of online procedures for all international passengers arriving in the country from August 8, particularly to deal with quarantine procedures.
As per the latest guidelines, all travellers should submit a self-declaration form on the online portal or New Delhi Airport at least 72 hours before the scheduled travel.
They should also give an undertaking on the portal or New Delhi Airport that they would undergo mandatory quarantine for 14 days (seven days’ paid institutional quarantine at their own cost, followed by seven days at home).
Passengers should also submit the relevant documents on the same site if they wish to avail an exemption from institutional quarantine.
While those with compelling reasons or distress need to seek the exemption by applying on the portal at least 72 hours before boarding, others seeking exemption by submitting a negative RT-PCR COVID-19 test report should also upload the report on the portal.
With the Indian authorities deciding to make these new online procedures for the international passengers on the portal live from 12am on August 8, expats trying to fly home from the UAE from Saturday are confused as to how this will impact their journey.
Clarification being sought
Expats flying in the first couple of days after the new rules come into effect are concerned since they need to upload the documents three or four days before the date of travel.
Such expats have been reaching out to the Indian missions here and Indian authorities back home for clarification.
Sikander Rais, whose pregnant wife is travelling from Dubai to Delhi on a 3.55am flight on Saturday, is one of the worried lot.
In a tweet, he sought a clarification on where she has to register for exemption from institutional quarantine as per the new guideline as nothing has appeared on the website of the Delhi Airport.
Another expat, Mohammad Irshad Jat, tweeted asking if he still needed to register on the portal since he had already registered with the Indian Embassy but do not yet know the exact date of travel.
In a reply to Indians who sought clarification through Twitter, the Ministry of Civil Aviation stated that the portal will be open to passengers to register their details from August 8. “There will be a phase of transition from the existing system to online portal between August 8-11, during which both systems will work to ensure passengers are not inconvenienced,” the ministry stated.
The ministry also responded to concerns related to uploading the negative result of the COVID-19 test that has to be taken within 96 hours of boarding. “If passengers do not get the certificate before boarding, they can show it on arrival. However, they can apply for exemption online and upload proof of test mentioning that they are waiting for result to arrive.”
When contacted, the Indian Consulate in Dubai said they were also awaiting more clarity for passengers flying on August 8. “We are getting queries related to this. Authorities are well aware of the situation and soon there will be better clarity,” said Neeraj Agrawal, consul for Press, Information and Culture.
Regarding the need for Indian expats to register on the database of the Indian missions, he said: “It is advisable that Indians returning from the UAE continue to register with our database because we still need the numbers of people intending to travel to help plan the flights.”
Out of 500,000 Indians in the UAE who had registered for repatriation, more than 275,000 have so far gone home, the consulate had said on Sunday.