PHOTO BY EXPAT MEDIA/SUPPLIED
DUBAI – Amid ongoing travel restrictions due to the Covid-19 crisis, UAE residents stuck abroad have taken to social media to ask the UAE government for help in returning to the emirates.
Hundreds of expats have left messages for help on Expat Media’s Facebook page and several posts related to limited flights into the country.
The distressed expats include Indian national Mary C. whose elderly mother is alone in UAE while her father is in Al Aweer prison; Princess Violeta, who is running out of money to support her family in the Philippines, and a South African couple who flew home to get married only to have their wedding cancelled by the Covid-19 crisis.
Many expressed distress at having their application to re-enter the country rejected. Currently, only those with approval from the Federal Authority for Identity and Citizenship (ICA) can book flights to return to the UAE.
“My approval for entry was denied and I have spent nearly six months outside the UAE. I am worried that my visa will be automatically cancelled,” Filipino expat Ronald Librea wrote.
Sana Kaleem Khan, who is unable to leave her home country due to a lockdown, expressed worry for her child. “I’m a resident and my baby is alone there,” Khan said.
Samreen Mehwish, who is stuck in India, expressed her frustration at having her children separated from their father. “Do they have answer to their question that when we will be back home??? [sic]” Mehwish wrote.
Pakistani national Raja Abrar Khan called for flights to reopen, saying, “As a business owner we are losing our business.”
“I don’t know why there are so many people rejected. Mine as well. And the process is so frustrating because you have no idea where you can call for assistance,” Filipino expat Asuero Viloria said.
As Expatmedia.net reported earlier in May, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation launched the Twajudi service to facilitate expats’ safe return to the UAE in emergency situations, particularly during the coronavirus pandemic. Expats with valid residence visas were able to apply for the service.
The website has since gotten thousands of requests and was moved under the ICA website on May 13 where it has been renamed as Resident Entry Permit and remains in operation as a beta subpage.
Users who are approved to enter the UAE will be given an ICA token number that they will need in order to book UAE-bound flights through Emirates or Etihad.
However, new requirements were announced on May 18, when the ICA and Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation said that expatriates will be able to return to the UAE from June 1, but that only those who have a family in the UAE, aside from having a valid residency visa, can be brought back to the country during this period.
Residents who meet these criteria can then apply for ICA approval or permit. Click here for guide on how to apply for ICA approval.
With the new criteria, expatriates without any emergency reason to reenter the emirates fear their jobs might be at stake as they wait for travel restrictions to be lifted so that they can return to their workplace.
“Please help me and my husband,” Filipino expat Princess Violeta—whose application has been rejected—wrote to Expatmedia.net. “We need to go back soon to the UAE because of our job. We have family here in our country and we’re the only ones supporting them. It’s a difficult situation for us as we are running out of money,” Violeta said.
Mary C. (full name withheld), 26, told Expatmedia.net that she has exhausted all efforts to return to the UAE to be reunited with her mother in Ajman. Mary is currently stuck in New Delhi after she flew there on March 13 to visit her father-in-law at the hospital.
“I was supposed to travel back on the evening of March 19, but the travel restriction to UAE was imposed that morning,” she said.
Mary said she worries for her 62-year-old mother in Ajman and her 65-year-old father in jail. “Due to a loan case my father is in Al Aweer prison,” she said.
“It has been two months since I haven’t returned to work,” said Mary, who is a customs clearance agent for a courier company in the UAE. “I am worried that if I do not return it might affect my job as I am the only one supporting the family,” she said.
Mary said her application through Twajudi was rejected before the May 18 announcement. She is hoping she could reapply her case, however, it appeared the system will not allow it. “I don’t know what else to do,” she said.
South African expats Ross Horwitz and Kimberly Roos also reached out to Expatmedia.net for help after they could not return to the UAE that they have called their home in the last five years.
“We are currently stuck outside of UAE in South Africa. My wife is chronically ill and we only have medical aid back in UAE. I have also been put on unpaid leave. I hope you would be able to help us get our story out there,” Horwitz, a restaurant operation manager in Abu Dhabi, told Expatmedia.net.
The couple, who owns a property in Dubai’s JVC, had flown to South Africa for the “perfect” wedding in March that they had been planning since 2018.
“Due to Covid-19, our wedding ended up being cancelled and on that very day, the UAE closed its borders and we did everything we could to get home, but it was too late – there was not enough time to fly back and enter the country,” Horwitz said.
“Now we are in a desperate situation, as Kimberly has a severe chronic illness, Lyme disease. She requires regular medical check ups and treatments and she is not covered properly for medical aid in South Africa where we are both stuck,” Horwitz said.
The couple worries that their funds will run out while bills continue to pile up for their home in the UAE and the accommodation they are renting in Cape Town.
“Our only plea is to get home back to the UAE before it’s too late for Kimberly with her illness. Please help us return to our home,” Horwitz said. PIA/Expat Media
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