MANGALURU: Adding to the woes of hundreds of Indians stuck in Dubai after Saudi Arabia’s temporary suspension on travel from 20 countries, including India, the Indian Embassy in Abu Dhabi has asked these Indians to consider returning to India and make travel plans only after restrictions in destination countries are lifted. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) announced a temporary suspension on travel on February 2 to curb the rise in Covid cases. Those who were already undergoing quarantine in Dubai and those who had already left India to Saudi Arabia were hit by the sudden decision.
Many Indians stayed put in Dubai, hoping that the temporary suspension would be lifted soon. But the advisory from the Indian Embassy, asking them to go back, has come as a rude shock to them. The advisory states that because of Covid restrictions, it is not possible currently for Indians to transit via Dubai and Abu Dhabi to Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.
The advisory says, “All Indian nationals are therefore advised to kindly ascertain the latest Covid-related travel guidelines of their final destination country before embarking on an outward journey from India. They are also advised to carry enough personal provisions and funds to cater to any emergency requirements. All those Indian nationals who are already in UA E en route to Saudi Arabia or Kuwait are advised to consider returning to India and make their further travel plans only after the restrictions in the final destination countries are lifted.”
PA Hameed, an activist based in Riyadh, who had earlier written to External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar to bail out Indians stuck in the UA E, expressed disappointment over the Indian government’s response, saying, “India could do more than this.” He said that a majority of those stranded in the UA E are blue-collar workers who had returned to India several months ago after losing jobs when the pandemic struck. Now they are returning and many of them have raised loans to fund their travel and are in deep trouble because of travel restrictions.
Some are on visit visas, while job visas of others are expiring within a few weeks. Hameed said that returning to India is not an easy option for them, especially for bluecollared workers. “It is a double whammy for them. They have spent their money, time, energy and strictly complied with all Covid norms and guidelines and now they are being asked to go back. The Indian government should initiate diplomatic talks with the Saudi Arabian government to at least allow these Indians stranded in Dubai to get into KSA with strict Covid norms. It will be a big relief for around 1,000 NRIs and their families. In the worstcase scenario, the Indian government should at least make repatriation arrangements for them,” he urged.