DUBAI: A senior Pakistani diplomat in the United Arab Emirates confirmed on Wednesday that more than 120 Pakistani nationals would fly back to their country in a chartered plane on July 16, adding that most of these individuals could not afford their air tickets and were helped by the country’s diaspora community and the consulate general that booked a Serene Air flight to help them.
“At least 125 people will fly out of Sharjah to Karachi on a special chartered flight that will depart tomorrow morning,” Pakistan’s Consul General in Dubai Ahmed Amjad Ali told Arab News. “We are also planning another special flight for Islamabad soon.”
Ali said that some of the people traveling back to their country had lost their jobs due to the economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic while others were illegally living in the Emirates for the past few years.
The consulate also provided assistance to many of these individuals who were not in possession of their passports, issuing them “out passes” and regularizing their documents.
Last month, the consulate announced that it had completed the “biggest ever” repatriation from the Gulf countries by sending 30,229 Pakistanis back from Dubai and Northern Emirates through 138 flights.
“We had given 567 free tickets at that time, but we have given 500 more since then,” Ali said.
He added that this group of people had not registered with the country’s diplomatic mission back then since they were not aware of the repatriation procedures.
“Majority of these people have been in dire straits for the past four months,” Taimoor H., who arranged the repatriation in coordination with the consulate, told Arab News on Wednesday.
This is the fourth batch of stranded Pakistani workers to be sent back over the past 15 days. Nearly 400 workers had been repatriated earlier this month in a similar way, he said.
A 40-year-old Pakistani national who has been in Dubai for the past eight years, Taimoor said he had been volunteering and aiding the community since the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak.
“I discovered the plight of these individuals through social media platforms and decided to help them out,” he continued.
Initially, about 22 people sought his help, but their number grew to 85 within a few days.
“The consulate helped arrange their accommodation, transportation and repatriation, and the group was finally sent back on July 3,” said Taimoor.
The rest of the Pakistani community also rallied behind the initiative, and a sum of AED125,000 was raised to buy tickets for those traveling on the flight tomorrow.
“Tickets have been expensive, so we decided to take the shortest flight possible to Pakistan which departs from Sharjah to Karachi,” he added.
32-year-old Fareed Baksh, who worked as a foreman at a construction company, told Arab News that he was happy to be traveling back to his country.
“I have no work for the past many months and people have been helping me with food and accommodation,” he said. “Someone told me that the consulate was going to arrange my ticket, so I came over here. Now I can finally return to Pakistan.”