DUBAI: More than 120 Pakistani nationals who were stranded in Sharjah because of the coronavirus pandemic arrived in Karachi on a chartered plane arranged by Pakistani expats living in the UAE who also bought their tickets, a Pakistani volunteer who helped with the repatriation said.
Pakistan’s Consul General in Dubai, Ahmed Amjad Ali, told Arab News most of the 125 travelers could not afford flight tickets as they had lost their jobs due to the economic downturn caused by coronavirus lockdowns or were illegally living in the Emirates for the past few years. The consulate had chartered a Serene Air flight to help them, he said, and assisted those who did not have passports by issuing “out passes” and regularizing their documents.
“We are also planning another special flight for Islamabad soon,” Ali said.
Last month, the consulate announced that it had completed the “biggest ever” repatriation from 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.
#WATCH: Pakistani workers stranded in #UAE due to the #CoronavirusLockdown were able to return back to #Pakistan via a chartered flight arranged by Pakistani expats and the Consul General in Dubai. || @ParepDubai
Read special by @AsmaAliZain: https://t.co/WtqqBIyhQx pic.twitter.com/J8tHSOtUv0
— Arab News Pakistan (@arabnewspk) July 16, 2020
A 40-year-old Pakistani national who only wanted to be identified by his first name, Taimoor, and who helped in the repatriation process, said a majority of those flying back home on the charter flight had been in “dire straits” for the past four months.
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, said Taimoor, who said he had been living in Dubai for the past eight years and had been involved in coronavirus relief efforts for the Pakistani community since March.
“I discovered the plight of these individuals through social media platforms and decided to help them out,” he said.
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,” Taimoor said.
Others in the Pakistani community also rallied behind the initiative, and a sum of AED125,000 was raised to buy tickets for those traveling on Thursday, he said, adding: “Tickets have been expensive, so we decided to take the shortest flight possible to Pakistan which departs from Sharjah to Karachi.”
Thirty-two-year-old Fareed Baksh, who worked as a foreman at a construction company, told Arab News 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.”