Dubai: Indian expats living in the UAE are calling for speedy approvals from the Tamil Nadu state government for chartered flights to take home stranded people in the UAE.
Tamil expats offering their voluntary service to help fellow Indians with their desperate situation in the UAE are also calling for the Tamil Nadu state government to waive charges for COVID-19 tests and quarantine costs to returning Indians who cannot afford to pay.
“There is a growing number of Tamil expats stuck in the UAE and their voice needs to be heard,” said Devanand Mahadeva, a UAE-based lawyer of Goodwins Group who has been working relentlessly to help repatriate Tamilians stuck in the emirates.
“According to numbers collated by our community, there must be at least 45,000 people stuck in the UAE and there are not enough flights to take them home. Not just that, considering the fact that most people returning are jobless blue collar workers and pregnant women whose husbands have lost jobs, we are calling for the state government of Tamil Nadu to waive off COVID-19 test costs and quarantine charges for people like these who cannot afford it.”
Mahadeva, who holds regular talk shows on a radio channel in Dubai said the past three weeks he has been inundated with enquiries from stranded Tamilians who want to go home.
“Seeing the overwhelming response, I have also started a helpline to answer people’s queries between 2pm and 4pm every day except Friday to help deal with their situation. This has brought to light the plight of more people stuck in the UAE.”
Vignesh Murugesan, hailing from Pudukotai in Tamil Nadu is one who Mahadeva contacted through the radio channel. Murugesan came with a dream to live a life out of UAE and earn money for his family. His ticket, virus test and quarantine stay has all been met by Mahadeva.
The same is the case with a 43-year-old housemaid, Nasreen. “I came to the UAE on January 2019. Now I don’t have a job and I am living off the generosity of Good Samaritans. I cannot afford to pay ticket or quarantine stay. Hope the voice of people like mine can be heard home,” she said.
Another social worker in UAE, Dr Jayanthimala Suresh, who is an entrepreuner, and President of Dubai Tamil Sangam, who has been working round the clock to repatriate Tamilians, said in her list she has nearly 10,000 people waiting to leave UAE.
“DTS has hired 12 chartered aircraft and we are planning to hire 20 more. Two repatriation flights have successfully departed to Madurai from Ras Al Khaimah on June 19 and 22. I have approval for 10 more flights.”
“The issue we are facing is the high cost of COVID-19 tests and quarantine charges.”
Punit Shah, general manager, City One Tourism & Travel who has applied for five chartered flights to Tamil Nadu cities - Tiruchy, Madurai and Coimbatore, said it has been quite challenging convincing travellers on the high costs of virus test and quarantine stay.
According to Shah, the costs per person for just the covid test alone is Dh400.
“This is considering a fact that the Tamil Nadu government wants two negative COVID-19 tests before one can travel. Quarantine stays range between Dh600 and Dh1,000. So this means anyone travelling from UAE on the repatriation flight has to shell out Dh1,000 to Dh1,500 extra besides ticket money if they are travelling on a chartered flight. Now how many can afford this? I have personally paid for so many blue collar workers, as they are jobless here in the UAE.”
He also called for state governments to give some time before changing Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) overnight. “I had a chartered flight carrying 194 passengers including infants ready to fly out on June 25 morning 7am to Madurai. The previous night at 11pm we received communication that the SOPs had changed and that our flight will not be able to fly. I had to arrange accommodation for several blue collar workers as they had left their accommodation. The Tamil Nadu government should put up larger facilities at affordable prices for quarantine stay.”
Stranded Tamil expats can reach Devanand Mahadeva’s helpline on 055-745 4474 every day between 2pm to 4pm except on Friday.