Dubai: A UAE-based lawyer has recovered the passports of several stranded blue collar Indian workers in the UAE, many of whom have lost their jobs and are waiting to be repatriated.
Sheela Thomas, with the help of authorities, said she was able to help several workers whose passports were kept by their employers or whose work visas had expired.
Thomas discovered their plight by chance when she was supplying food to some of the workers in Sharjah during the national sterilisation drive.
“But soon, I was sitting on 2,200 pro-bono files. Most of them have been closed,” she said.
Thomas said she was able to get the workers’ passports back, their visas cancelled and arrange for their stay as they awaited repatriation.
Now as most of these workers have their paperwork in place, they can leave the country, but there is still a hurdle: money for their flights.
“I cannot afford to pay for their tickets. I need help. This is an appeal to Good Samaritans to come forward and help stranded migrant workers in UAE – especially when we are amid a pandemic situation,” she said.
Rooksar Ahmad, 25, from Lucknow, said he was lucky to meet Thomas on one of her food distribution rounds.
“I came to the UAE in 2017 with the promise of a job in a mall. But instead I was assigned construction work. The work was hard. It physically drained me out. I quit my job and tried other places. But my passport was stuck with my old employer. Sheela Madam helped me get it back. I am so thankful. I had to make trips to Abu Dhabi to get it. She arranged for my travel, paid for my trips up and down. Now I am waiting to go home,” he said.
Another worker hailing from Hyderabad in India, Naresh, said he too was stranded without a passport. Thomas managed not just to get it back for him, but also with accommodation and meals. “We are just waiting for help with the ticket money,” he noted.
Thomas said: “I have been working non-stop to help these workers and thanks to support from the local government authorities, these workers have been able to get their paper work in place really quickly. The UAE government authorities have acted on this swiftly and efficiently.”
She said she personally liaised with the workers’ employers to help with the situation.
“Most of the files have been closed. I just want to see these workers safe back home,” she added.