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Indians stranded in UAE over Saudi, Kuwait border closures

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Most of the stranded passengers are bound for Saudi Arabia, says Indian association that’s helping them.

More than 500 Indian expats are stuck in the UAE as on Monday, after Saudi Arabia and Kuwait shut their borders amid concerns about the new Covid-19 strain that’s spreading through Europe. Majority of the stranded passengers are bound for Saudi Arabia, according to the office bearers of the association offering help.

Kerala Muslim Cultural Centre, UAE, is providing free shelter to more than 200 passengers in Ajman, based on figures recorded on Monday. Separately, nearly 300 expats were accommodated by Markaz Dubai, which brings the overall number of Indians in distress to around 500.

Soopy Pathirippatta, president of KMCC Ajman, said the centre had been receiving calls for help from December 25 onwards. So far, 210 people from different states of India are given free food and accommodation.

“The initiative is undertaken by the KMCC UAE through the Ajman branch. We continue to receive people even today (Monday). People are reaching out to us from different emirates. There are two buildings with an overall capacity of 540 persons. Currently, we are providing accommodations at a building with a capacity of 320 persons. If needed, we will open the second building, which can accommodate 220,” Pathirippatta said.

Pathirippatta noted that the two buildings had served as isolation centres and now refurbished with fresh mattresses and bed sheets to welcome the distressed expats.

The entire operations are coordinated by several KMCC units functioning in different emirates of the UAE. People in distress, who wish to seek help, need to send proof of Saudi and Kuwait visas and/or their booked air tickets.

“People landed here on tour packages, including 14-day quarantine at a hotel. Once their stay ends, they would then have nowhere to go. So, we bring them here. Majority of them are poor workers, who somehow managed to pay hefty amounts of Rs60,000 to Rs80,000 charged by tour operators as part of the package. They were jobless back home for the past few months. They cannot afford to pay for an extension of their stay at hotels.”

While majority of passengers are from the south Indian state of Kerala, there are some from other northern and southern states. “We will not leave the hand of any fellow countrymen in this hour of crisis. We are welcoming everyone as our guests,” Pathirippatta added.

An expat is glad to get free temporary accommodation and nutritious food to eat. “They (KMCC) are taking good care of everyone. Personally, it was a struggle for the past several days. I had not eaten properly for days but now I got to eat good food and chicken curry. I feel secured. I have my peace of mind now.”

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