Children under 12 unable to fly back alone to UAE from India

Agencies
July 14, 2020

Dubai, Jul 14: The UAE-based parents of children under 12 stranded in India are in a tight spot with multiple airlines refusing to accept unaccompanied minors.

Starting July 12, Indians wanting to return to the UAE have been given a 15-day window to travel back on the condition that they have valid residency permits. They also have to produce a negative Covid-19 test result.

But parents of minors said they are feeling helpless as children are unable to avail of the travel opportunity despite having return permits.

"It has been more than three months since my daughter has been stuck in India. We have GDRFA approval for her but the airlines are not accepting her booking, saying she is under 12," Poonam Sapre, a Dubai-based mother, told Khaleej Times.

Her daughter Eva Sapre, 10, is in Hyderabad and is awaiting a reunion with her parents.

"She is just 10 and it has already taken an emotional toll on her. She is eager to come back and is asking me every day about her return. This is so frustrating."

Barring Emirates and Etihad, other airlines including flydubai, Air Arabia and Air India Express are not accepting unaccompanied minors. With India extending the travel freeze till July 31, normal flights are yet to resume and only special flights are allowed between India and UAE under a bilateral agreement.

Sapre said only flydubai is flying the Hyderabad-Dubai route, and the carrier has restrictions on minors travelling alone. "My daughter is too young to fly through indirect routes," claims the mother.

When Khaleej Times reached out to the airlines for comment, they confirmed that such rules on unaccompanied minors were already in place even before Covid-19 travel restrictions came into effect.

Another Dubai-based distressed parent, who did not want to be named, said her eight-year-old son is in Kerala and is unable to fly due to airline policies on unaccompanied minors.

"I called up Air India Express and they said this has been their rule even before the Covid-19 outbreak. I am appealing to them to re-consider and make an exception during these trying times so that our children can come home safely," she said.

Faced with this eventuality, some parents are forced to fly out of the UAE so they can accompany their children on the flight back home.

An Indian mother, who is currently in Mumbai, said she flew out of Dubai on Monday morning solely for the purpose of bringing back her twin daughters, aged 10.

"I had no choice. Ideally, they could have travelled together, but under these circumstances I thought it best to get them with me personally," said the mother.

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News Network
September 16,2020

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Palestinian resistance fighters in the Gaza Strip have traded strikes with the Israeli military as the signing of contentious normalization treaties between Tel Aviv and two Arab regimes provokes another flare-up in the blockaded territory.

Palestinian Arabic-language Ma’an news agency, citing local sources, reported that Israeli fighter jets and helicopters bombed a training base run by the Hamas resistance movement northwest of Beit Lahiya town early on Wednesday.

Eyewitnesses confirmed that huge explosions were heard in the northern Gaza Strip before the site caught fire.

The sources noted that Israeli warplanes carried out four air raids against the site, while three others were launched by choppers.

Later, Israeli jets targeted another Hamas-run site in an area located between Deir al-Balah city in the central Gaza Strip and Khan Yunis in the southern sector of the Palestinian enclave.

There were no immediate reports of casualties in either attack.

The raids came shortly after Palestinian resistance fighters in the Gaza Strip fired a barrage of rockets into the Israeli-occupied territories.

Reacting to the news of the fresh flareup, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Wednesday that the overnight rocket fire was meant to undermine Israel's deals with Arab states.

"They want to prevent peace, they won't. We will hit everyone who tries to harm us, and we will extend a hand of peace to all who reach out to us to make peace," Netanyahu said in a statement

‘A message of resistance’

Following the Israeli warplanes’ latest bombardment of the enclave, Hamas issued a warning to the Tel Aviv regime.

"The occupation (Israel) will pay the price for any aggression against our people or resistance sites and the response will be direct," said the resistance group in a statement.

"We will increase and expand our response to the extent that the occupation persists in its aggression," Hamas added on Wednesday.

The Palestinian rockets triggered sirens in the cities of Ashkelon and Ashdod, potentially sending hundreds of thousands of Israelis rushing to bomb shelters just as Netanyahu was signing agreements at the White House with Emirati Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Abdullatif al-Zayani.

Two people were reportedly injured and several more treated for shock after a rocket slammed into a street in Ashdod, according to Israeli media.

Palestinians, who seek an independent state in the occupied West Bank and Gaza, view the US-brokered deals as a betrayal of their cause.

Mohammad al-Hindi, a senior official with the Gaza-based Islamic Jihad resistance movement, said “the Gaza rockets are a message that this great vanity of the United States and Israel will be shattered by the Palestinians and that the final word is for those in the right.”

Hamas also said in a statement that the Palestinian nation “insists on continuing its struggle until it secures the return of all of its rights.”

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas also protested the normalization deals with Israel, stating they will not foster peace in the Middle East as long as the United States and the Israeli regime do not recognize the rights of the Palestinian nation to establish an independent and sovereign state based on the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem al-Quds as its capital.

The Gaza Strip has been under an Israeli land, air and sea blockade since June 2007, after Hamas, which has vowed to resist Israeli occupation, won the elections and rose to power in the enclave.

Since imposing the siege, Israel has also waged three wholesale wars against Gaza, killing and wounding thousands of Palestinians in each.

The crippling blockade has caused a sharp decline in the standard of living as well as unprecedented levels of unemployment and unrelenting poverty in the strip.

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News Network
September 30,2020

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Dubai, Sept 30: An Indian expat who had suffered a stroke five months ago and since been bedridden in a hospital, was flown home earlier this week.

Ramachandran Kottakkunnu, 60, left for India in a wheelchair - in a condition far from the life he had lived in the UAE. He had been a UAE resident for over 30 years and used to run a successful business until he lost it all, said Praveen Kumar, the social worker who managed his repatriation in collaboration with the Consulate-General of India in Dubai.

After losing his business, he started working for a small textile shop in Deira's Naif district, earning a salary of Dh2,500. He struggled but he kept going because his wife and daughter are both ill, Khaleejtimes reported.

"His wife has cancer and his daughter has heart disease. That is the only reason he was still living here in the UAE, to pay for his family's medical bills," said Kumar.

Then, he suffered stroke, and the small store he was working with could no longer pay for his hospital expenses. He stayed in the hospital for nearly five months, with his bills reaching almost Dh1.6 million.

"Ramachandran was in a deplorable state. He was in a vegetative, coma state when he was admitted to the hospital five months ago. He still cannot speak; however, thanks to the hospital where he was being treated, he was able to get on a wheelchair and fly home," Kumar said. A wheelchair and an air ticket were provided by the consulate.

"Thanks to the Consulate-General of India and intervention from social workers and volunteers from the mission's medical team, Ramachandran was finally repatriated to his hometown in Kasaragod district in Kerala. He is now admitted for palliative care at a major hospital in Mangalore, Karnataka," Kumar said.

Though he is still unable to speak, the social workers thought it best that he avail of treatment in India instead of staying in the UAE with no means to pay the mounting medical bills.

Jitender Singh Negi, consul for labour, consular and Madad, told Khaleej Times: "I can confirm that Ramachandran was repatriated to India with our support. He had an outstanding bill of nearly 1.6 million. However, the hospital was kind enough to release him.

"He was working for a very small company that was in financial distress amid the Covid-19 crisis, so they were not in a position to support him. Our volunteers worked with him towards his repatriation."

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News Network
September 23,2020

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Sharjah, Sep 23: An Indian expatriate cannot believe that he can finally go home after 20 years, with Dh750,000 of fine waived off by Sharjah authorities.

What's in a name? Even a letter matters, says Thanavel Mathiazhaagan, an Indian worker in the UAE who is set to return home after being granted a waiver of nearly Dh750,000 in overstay fines, reports Gulf News.

The man from the Indian state of Tamil Nadu claims that he could not avail amnesty opportunities in the UAE in the last 20 years as his identity verification was not cleared from India due to a mismatch in his father's name in documents back home and that shown in his passport. As it turns out, there was a spelling error in his father's name in the documents in India.

Mathiazhaagan, 56, said he himself realised this (the reason for not getting the clearance) only after his latest request for repatriation was taken up by two social workers in the UAE after he sought their help to return home during the Covid-19 pandemic.

He told media that he had landed in the UAE in 2000 after paying Rs 120,000 (Dh6,048) to a recruitment agent for a job in Abu Dhabi. This could be verified from the stamp on his employment visa entry permit -- the only document that Mathiazhaagan has preserved, apart from a copy of the last page of his passport.

He said the agent had taken his original passport, claiming that his residence visa would be stamped in the passport once he gets the medical fitness certificate issued.

"I took the medical test and waited for my employment visa. But, the agent kept delaying it and later I got to know that the company, which was supposed to hire me, had shut down." Eventually, he said, the agent stopped answering his calls and could not be traced at all later.

"I stayed in a room with some people from my native place. I lived there for eight months with no job. After that I came to Sharjah and started doing odd jobs."

Mathiazhaagan said he illegally stayed in the UAE to feed his family by doing part-time jobs for various households and companies.

He claimed that he did try for returning home during the previous visa amnesty offers in the UAE and lost more than Dh10,000 to people who promised to help him with clearance of his documents that never came through.

Prior to the fine waiver announced till November 17 this year for people with expired visas or who had their visas cancelled before March 1 during the Covid-19 pandemic, the UAE government had granted visa amnesties in 2003, 2007, 2012 and 2018.

Gulf News could not independently verify if Mathiazhaagan had indeed applied for an emergency certificate (EC), a one-way travel document issued to Indians without a valid passport, in order to facilitate their return home, during the earlier instances of amnesty.

However, A. K. Mahadevan and Chandra Prakash. P, who helped Mathiazhaagan get an EC through the Indian Embassy in Abu Dhabi, said he had failed to get identity clearance from India during the pandemic. They said they found out the reason behind the rejection only after Mathiazhaagan met Mahadevan, seeking help to return home.

"His name is Thanavel Mathiazhaagan as per the copy of the last page of his lost passport and the UAE entry permit," said Prakash, the Vice-President of Indian People's Forum, a community organisation that also pitched to get a travel clearance for Mathiazhaagan.

"Unfortunately, the documents sent by Trichy Regional Passport Office to the Senthurai Police Station for his identity verification showed his father's name as Thangavel whereas his father's actual name is Thanavel -- according to all other records. The additional letter 'g' in the name created the problem," said Prakash.

The duo said they approached the Indian Embassy and the local departments in Mathiazhaagan's village to rectify the mistake and process his documents. "Indian Ambassador to the UAE Pavan Kapoor took special interest in solving this case after the issue was taken up with him," said Prakash.

Mahadevan said he was happy that Mathiazhaagan would be flying home soon and meeting his youngest daughter, who had not even been born when he left India for the UAE.

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