COVID-19: “We do not need food, we want to go home,” appeal stranded Pakistanis in the UAE

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Dubai: Stranded Pakistanis in the UAE say they want to go home and do not need food aid.

Pakistanis who are waiting to go back home are also all praise for the UAE government for taking good care of them in difficult time when their own government has ‘abandoned’ them as they are waiting to be evacuated.

More than 25,000 Pakistanis mostly those who came to the UAE on visit visas or lost jobs due to economic impact of coronavirus pandemic, have registered with their diplomatic missions demanding to go back home. According to officials, the number is even higher as not all of them have registered.

Gulf News spoke to a number of Pakistanis who are stranded in the UAE since the flights were suspended by their country. They want their government to arrange special flights to evacuate them from the UAE at the earliest. Pakistan has already extended the regular flight suspension until April 21.

Never felt so helpless

Zia Abbasi, who came to Dubai on a business trip, said he is desperate to go back home. “I never felt so helpless as our government has abandoned us in difficult time. I am gratfule to the UAE government for extending our visas without fines but at the same time I am embarrassed at what our government is doing to overseas Pakistanis in the UAE and other Gulf countries,” he said, demanding the Pakistan government to make immediate arrangements to take them home.

Zia Abbasi

Left us alone

Abdul Qayyum Kiynai, who also came on visit visa which has already expired,’ said that it is a shame for us to notice that the different governments are evacuating their citizens but our government left its people in lurch. “We do not need free food here but just want to go home. We demand our government to allow airlines to start at least special flight operation to evacuate stranded people.” he said.

Abdul Qayyum Kiyani

Mohammad Rahat, who has been working in the UAE for the last 10 years, said that he desperately wanted to go home to take care of his pregnant wife. “Our Prime Minister Imran Khan wants to donate for ‘corona relief fund’ but he is not doing anything to rescue us in difficult time,” he noted.

Backbone of economy

Shakil Ashraf another stranded Pakistanis, said: “Please do not give us food, just send us back home as we have enough food there.” Ashraf who worked in a contracting company has lost job, has now no place to live and is dependent on his friends. “I want to ask Imran Khan why he has abandoned  us. We have been contributing to to boost Pakistan’s economy by sending remittances through legal channels. He (Imran) always says that overseas Pakistanis are backbone of the country’s economy. Why have you abandoned us?” he asked.

Shakil Ashraf

Mohammad Khalid Khan said that his visit visa has expired and he has run out of money. “I am thankful for the UAE government for waiving fines on overstay of visist visas and also taking a number of steps to help the stranded people. But we are very upset with our own government for not making arrangements to take us back home,” he said, adding that he has alreaady registered with the consulate but no hope so far. He demanded his govermnet to immediately start special flights to repatriate stranded Pakistani citiznes from the UAE.

Mohammad Khalid Khan

Pakistan Consulate General in Dubai has also tweeted on the situation. “Pakistan Consulate Dubai has received and processed the registration of Pakistani nationals for repatriation from UAE. We are waiting permission from our government which is expected soon, after that our Special Flight operations will start. You will be notified,” the tweet says adddressign the stranded community in the UAE.

Pakistanis stranded in the UAE have also taken to social media demanding their government to evacuate them but in vain.

Social media reaction

Ajmal Riaz tweeted: “ Dear sir, I am overseas stranded at UAE. I lost my job last month, my visa was cancelled on 14 March. Please arrange some flights to bring back Pakistani stranded at UAE . Please pay some attention to our difficulties.”

Atiq ur Rehman, another tweep, says: “35K Pakistani in UAE want to go back to Pakistan, but Pak Govt has no interest. They are more interested to bring back half Pakistanis (dual nationals) of UK, Canada and other western nationals of Pak origin.”

The issue is being raised by the political parties in Pakistan as well. Shehbaz Sharif, the Opposition Leader in the Parliament, also tweeted: “Pakistani expatriate community in the Gulf & other countries is facing unprecedented challenges. Govt has failed to establish an effective communication channel for them. FO needs to rise to the occasion & address it. Overseas Pakistanis cannot b left @ the mercy of circumstances.”

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