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Pakistan begins repatriating stranded nationals from coronavirus-stricken UAE

Thousands of Pakistani migrant labour works live in the UAE [Getty]

Date of publication: 19 April, 2020

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Pakistan on Saturday evening began repatriating the first batch of nationals stranded in the UAE amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Hundreds of Pakistani citizens have been repatriated from the United Arab Emirates, authorities said on Sunday, after Abu Dhabi warned it would review labour ties with countries refusing to take back their nationals during the novel coronavirus pandemic, Reuters reported.

Some 227 "stranded passengers" were sent back on the first Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) on Saturday evening, Pakistan's consulate general in Dubai said.

The move came after the UAE's ministry of human resources and Emiratisation told the national news agency that it could review labour ties with countries who have refused to fly their citizens back home, after they were affected by the coronavirus crisis.

"Among the options being studied is ceasing labour agreements between the ministry and authorities in the non-co-operative countries, as well as setting strict restrictions on recruitment of workers from these countries, including application of a quota system," an official told WAM news agency.

The ministry official did not mention which countries were not cooperating with Abu Dhabi, but the ministry also reiterated the concerns.

"Several countries have not been responsive about allowing back their citizens who have applied to return home under the current circumstances," the ministry said, according to Reuters.

It comes after the Indian ambassador to the UAE said that the country was unable to repatriate large numbers of expatriate workers.

"Once the lockdown in India is lifted, we will certainly help them get back to their hometowns and their families," Pavan Kapoor told Emirati media.

Read also: As coronavirus hits the Gulf don't forget about migrant workers

It comes after a number of Indian expatriates in the UAE who have lost their jobs petitioned the Indian government to allow charter flights back home.

India has been in lockdown due to an outbreak of Covid-19, banning flights to the country.

The UAE's ambassador to Delhi said that Abu Dhabi was willing to assist countries with repatriating nationals back home.

India's Minister of State for External Affairs V. Muraleedharan said that due to the lockdown the repatriation of Indian nationals would only be considered next month.

He said that priority would be given to the sick, pregnant and elderly.

The UAE has been in full lockdown since the outbreak of the coronavirus, with thousands of workers laid off or put on leave due to the effects the measures have had on business.

The UAE has seen 6,781 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 41 deaths.

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