Nineteen Indians who have been stuck at the Dubai International Airport since the first phase of the countrywide lockdown began on March 25, have sent out renewed pleas to be allowed to return to India, The Hindu reported on Tuesday.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday announced an extension of the lockdown till May 3. All national and international flights to India have been suspended till May 3.

Most Indians stranded in Dubai were in transit from European countries. The rest had checked in for flights from Dubai, but were turned away at the last minute from the boarding gates on March 20 and March 21, after India suspended all international flights as a preventive measure to contain the outbreak.

After spending some days sleeping at the airport, the group was allowed to check into the Dubai International Airport Hotel on March 25, once their reports for Covid-19 returned negative.

“We have been in constant touch with some of them and with local authorities and Emirates airlines, who have put them in the airport hotel,” India’s Consul General in Dubai Vipul told the newspaper. “
We had also given some financial assistance when they initially got stranded. If there is any requirement of medicine, etc, we will provide that help as well.”

However, the passengers said that the only thing that would reassure them is knowing when they can return. “For 25 days, I haven’t been out in the sun or felt fresh air,” said Deepak Gupta, one of the stranded passengers. Gupta, a professional with a multinational corporation in Gurugram, said he is worried about reaching home in time as his wife is pregnant. “The airport is mostly shut down, and except for short trips to one restaurant for food, we are confined to our rooms,” he added.

Arun Singh, who works with the United Arab Emirates bank, told the Gulf News he missed his Emirates flight to Ahmedabad on March 22. “I have been eating and sleeping and eating and sleeping ever since they put us here [at the hotel]. I am comfortable but am desperate to go home,” he said. Singh, unlike the other stranded Indians, has a UAE residency visa. However, he is not permitted to leave the airport because of the suspension of all vias. “Every few days I send messages to the Indian consulate officials but am yet to hear back from them.”

On April 9, the UAE government sent a note to all embassies in Abu Dhabi, asking them to repatriate their citizens. The government also offered to help with flight arrangements and Covid-19 testing, along with hospital treatment for those who tested positive. “This includes travellers, naturally, but also any nationals who seek to go back to their homes and families,” UAE Ambassador Mohammad Al Banna said.

However, India’s Ambassador to the UAE Pavan Kapoor said that no Indian could be repatriated until the lockdown had ended. “It is totally wrong to say that we are abandoning our citizens,” he said. “Once the lockdown in India is lifted, we will certainly help them get back to their hometowns and their families,” Kapoor told the Gulf News. “At this stage, we feel that it is best for them to stay where they are [since] there is a complete lockdown in India.”

India has reported 10,363 coronavirus cases and 339 deaths as of Tuesday morning, according to the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

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