A view of Islamabad. Pakistanis who are keen to visit include close relatives of those working in different cities of UAE Image Credit: Supplied

Islamabad: As the UAE has officially reopened for international visitors and resumed flights on July 7, many Pakistanis appreciated the move and said they are eager to return to the country.

Pakistanis who are keen to visit include close relatives of those working in different cities of UAE as well as workers and labourers seeking to return after losing jobs temporarily or permanently due to the pandemic and are interested to continue or start new jobs. The third category includes Pakistani tourists and business visitors.

Excited to return to Dubai

“We are extremely happy that the flights from Pakistan have now resumed,” remarked Babar Haq, system engineer at Dubai Internet City. “My in-laws can finally visit us now as they had to postpone their trip in Ramadan due to the travel restrictions. It will be great for the kids to spend time with their grandparents during the summer vacation” he told Gulf News.

“It will be exciting to witness the revival of the hustle and bustle of Dubai as the reopening after complete lockdown would bring back the glory of this beautiful city,” said Jibran Hassan, a pilot. “I am quite excited as I will finally be able to join the long-awaited simulator training at CAE Dubai which was pending for the past six months which will help me reassure flight safety.”

Pakistan-UAE flights begin

UAE airlines Emirates, Etihad and Flydubai have commenced flight operations to and from Pakistan after a temporary suspension. However, passengers are required to carry a negative COVID-19 report four days before the travel date (96 hours) from designated laboratories. Fahad Maqbool, head of Islamabad-based travel company Travel One, confirmed that hundreds of Pakistanis are now contacting them to book flights and reconfirm their tickets. Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) also restarted regular flights from Pakistan to UAE from July 9.

Waiting for work visas

The UAE is the second favourite destination for Pakistani workers after Saudi Arabia and there are many awaiting approval to start new jobs. “My wife is waiting for Abu Dhabi to open work visas. The hospital that offered her job was in the final stages of preparing her work visa when everything shut down due to the pandemic. We are waiting impatiently,” said Omer Jamal while talking to Gulf News.

Exhibitors and business community

Among those who have hailed the move are also those Pakistanis who were planning to attend fairs and exhibitions in Dubai and were anxiously waiting for the reopening as they had paid fees in advance. “Our company was going to participate in one of the top exhibitions in Dubai but all events in UAE were cancelled due to COVID-19 lockdown” said one of the participants HQ. He regretted that an “event organizing company is refusing to even partially refund the 100% advanced payment that we had paid several months back in 2019.” Pakistani national expressed hope that the concerned UAE department would take notice and resolve the issue amicably.

Pakistanis in UAE

The UAE is the second-largest job destination and home to more than 1.6 million Pakistanis. In 2019, nearly 211,216 Pakistanis went to UAE for work, according to data by the Bureau of Emigration and Overseas Employment. In the last three months, more than 60,000 stranded citizens returned to Pakistan via 138 PIA and some UAE airlines as Pakistan embassy in UAE recently wrapped up “largest-ever repatriation” mission in the wake of COVID-19.