Many have not been home for more than two years
With flight restrictions owing to the COVID-19 pandemic being extended periodically, thousands of Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) in the West Asian Gulf countries have been unable to fly home for holidays or vacations for more than two years.
The ongoing holiday season for the festival of Id-ul-Adha and Onam has brought little cheer to Indians stuck with travel curbs. Residents in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are already on a long break in connection with the festival that started on Monday.
“Many have thought the travel restrictions will be lifted, but the administration decided to suspend the outgoing passenger traffic from India that actually began on April 24,” said A.K. Sameer, a resident of Fujairah City.
However, from June 23, the UAE had relaxed its entry permit of Indian residency visa holders to return to their jobs and families. This was a follow-up to the exemptions given to UAE nationals, golden residency visa holders, and diplomats who comply with the revised COVID-19 protocol.
Mohammed Hashim, an NRI in Dubai, said one of the most serious problems facing the expatriates was depression due to the pandemic.
“Even people with medical problems cannot visit their parents. Also families cannot send medicine from back home even though the cost of medicines here is several times higher than in India,” he added.
Mr. Hashim said the fear of losing their jobs had forced hundreds of workers from Kerala to go into a self-imposed exile. Some had either postponed their house-warming events or let their families move into their dream houses.
Returning home meant they would no longer be able to support their families and dependents or secure a livelihood in the pandemic-ravaged economy in the State.
The last time M.R. Rajesh, a resident of Abu Dhabi, visited his mother was two years ago. “I desperately wanted to be back home last April to shift my mother, wife and daughter to our new home. Even now I had to defer plans. Perhaps I shall wait till the pandemic is over,” he says.
Like the holidays last time, families stranded in the Gulf also celebrate the Id-ul-Adha holidays with trips with their families and friends. Visiting houses of friends and planning dinners together are common in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) nations.
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