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Huge crowds throng the BLS International office in Deira Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: Huge crowds continue to throng an outsourcing agency for Indian passport and visa services in Dubai. Social distancing norms were tossed aside yet again as nearly 200 people turned up at BLS International’s office in Deira long before it opened for business on Saturday morning.

Police were called to disperse the crowd after long queues snaked around the place with some applicants showing up as early as 4.30am.

Crowds gather outside Indian passport agency office in Deira Supplied

Most had to go back disappointed after they were told that only those with appointments would be let in. However, some lucky ones managed to get tokens which allowed them to get inside.

“I came at 7.45am hoping to be among the first ones to visit the centre, but there were already scores of people waiting in queues,” said E. Khan who had gone to renew the passports of his wife and daughter.

Keralite S.K, 34, who was laid off due to the coronavirus pandemic said this was his third trip to BLS in recent days. “I am at my wit’s end. My passport is expiring shortly. I want to return to India but can’t do that unless I renew my passport. I have been to the centre thrice and was greeted with huge crowds each time. Nobody is observing social distancing,” he said.

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Huge crowds throng the BLS International office in Deira on Saturday morning Image Credit: Supplied

BLS International centres in both Dubai and Sharjah are struggling to clear the backlog of applications as they are operating with limited staff. A BLS staff said applicants can avoid the rush by making appointments over the phone. “We have stopped walk-ins from Thursday. Only those with appointments would be allowed in. Our Dubai Centre will accept 70 applicants daily while the one in Sharjah will receive about 150,” she said.

Consul General of India in Dubai, Vipul earlier said they are aware of the problem and are working to resolve it.

“We are discussing the issue with BLS as to how to manage this properly so that people are not inconvenienced and all norms of social distancing during COVID-19 are observed,” said Vipul.

He also urged the Indian community to follow social distancing rules.