More than 20,000 Pakistani workers are stuck in the United Arab Emirates and are seeking to Pakistan, as the UAE tightens restrictions due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Hundreds of Pakistanis gathered outside the consulate on Sunday, despite the emirate-wide lockdown, demanding to be sent home.
The UAE, which has reported 1,799 coronavirus cases and 10 deaths, has gradually increased curbs, including imposing a nationwide curfew, suspending passenger flights and putting Dubai in a lockdown.
A densely populated Dubai neighbourhood where many South Asian blue-collar workers live has been sealed off since March 31, and there has been door-to-door coronavirus testing in some parts of the emirate.
As part of efforts to contain the spread of the virus, the UAE imposed a two-week round-the-clock lockdown in Dubai and has suspended most passenger flights. Residents can only leave their homes with a special permit and only one member of the household is allowed to leave at one time.
Approximately 22,000 Pakistanis had registered since April 3 with the consulate to go home, a consulate spokesman confirmed on Monday.
Those who had registered included some whose visas had expired, who had lost their jobs or stopped being paid by their employer as well as those who entered the country on visitor visas, he said.
Dubai is on Lockdown
The Department of Economic Development (DED) on Tuesday announced that it will extend the closure of commercial activities until April 18 as part of the government’s efforts to contain the coronavirus.
In a statement published on its social media accounts, the DED said that during this period, sectors exempted from the curfew will operate as usual.
Dubai Police will use Artificial Intelligence before deciding whether or not to issue fines to people for moving about during the 24-hour coronavirus sterilisation programme.
Those who want to step out to buy essentials will need an official government-issued permit for any mode of transport including walking or cycling. Only one permit is allowed per household.
Police advised people not to go every day to supermarkets, pharmacies and instead buy their essentials in bulk to have enough food and medicine to last two to three days.
A huge proportion of Pakistani’s live in substandard conditions and work as day labourers, who have no insurance or wages (subsidy) during the lockdown.
Pakistan is a big labour supplier to Dubai and the rest of the UAE, with more than a million Pakistanis living and working in the country, according to Pakistani diplomats.
Pakistani authorities were in talks with their Dubai counterparts to try to arrange flights so that the Pakistanis could return home, the spokesman said.
Government media offices for Dubai did not immediately respond to emailed requests for comment.
The UAE suspended all passenger flights last month, though this week airlines Emirates and Etihad said they were resuming some outbound-only services to limited destinations for those wishing to leave the UAE. Neither airline has announced flights to Pakistan.