Responding to India’s concerns, the United Arab Emirates has offered to fly stranded Indian nationals who want to return home in view of the COVID-19 pandemic. Ambassador Ahmed Al Banna told The Hindu on Friday that the government of UAE has decided to help all countries fly their citizens home after the completion of the necessary medical tests.
“We have reached out to all foreign governments to repatriate their nationals including testing them before they leave and if found positive to treat them here. A note verbale to all embassies was sent seeking the help of all governments,” said Dr. Al Banna
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The repatriation offer would be available only to those citizens unaffected by the viral outbreak, Dr. Al Banna said.
The assurance comes on a day when Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan sought the intervention of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to persuade the UAE to ensure that the large workforce of Keralites in that country was effectively insulated from the risk of exposure to COVID-19.
In a letter to Mr. Modi, Mr. Vijayan said Keralites, who made up the bulk of blue colour workers in the Emirates, lived in crowded facilities in cities such as Dubai and ran a high risk of contracting the infection. Kerala was worried about the safety and well being of its diaspora in the Gulf, the Chief Minister said, seeking Central intervention.
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The Ministry of External Affairs has not yet responded to the UAE’s offer. New Delhi has said there are at least 25,000 Indian citizens consisting of travellers, students and stranded tourists in various parts of the globe who want to return home. It is believed that a substantial number of these citizens are in Dubai and Abu Dhabi as these are two prominent aviation hubs that serve India.
The Ambassador said the UAE has introduced one of the “most comprehensive programs” to diagnose the novel coronavirus infection and has tested more than half a million samples in the country to contain spread of the virus.
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Prime Minister Narendra Modi has so far held several rounds of telephone conversations with the regional heads of governments of the Gulf region since the COVID-19 pandemic. He spoke to Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi on March 26 during which the Crown Prince assured his government’s support to the large Indian community in the country.