NRI who lost son in accident pays towards repatriation of 61 Indians from UAE

News Network
July 28, 2020

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Dubai, Jul 28: A heart-broken father who lost his 19-year-old son in a tragic car accident during Christmas last year has sponsored the repatriation costs of 61 Indians stranded in the UAE.

 The special flydubai repatriation flight, chartered by the All Kerala Colleges Alumni Federation (Akcaf) volunteer group, of which he is a member of, departed from Dubai to Kochi on July 25 carrying 199 passengers.

 On this particular flight, I sponsored 55 air tickets," said TN Krishnakumar, a sales and marketing director. He had lost his son Rohit Krishnakumar in a car accident, which also claimed the life of the teen's friend, Sharat Kumar (21).

"All passengers who were registered with the Indian missions were also asked to register on the Akcaf volunteer group website. Each passenger was further vetted, after which we made home visits to ensure that all the applicants were genuinely in need of financial support and repatriation," he said.

Commenting on what inspired him to dedicate himself to community work, Krishankumar said: "When a situation like this comes up, you realise there is no meaning in money. I invested everything I made into my son, and that had crashed in front of my eyes. He was a third-year medical student at the University of Manchester in the UK and had returned home for a vacation when the accident took place. Since then, I have been involved in a lot of social activities. If I do not do this, there is no meaning to my existence."

Since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, Krishnakumar said the group has supported thousands of individuals in need of help. "We supported unemployed people with several hundred bags of grocery kits and other necessary items. We also supported Covid-19 patients by transferring them to the medical facility in Warsan, etc.," he said.

"I come from a very middle-class family. I got a scholarship to study in college, and I studied with the help of taxpayers' money. I have always wanted to give back to society. I have grown immensely in life and now is my time to give back.," he added.

Krishnakumar also sponsors the education of over 1,000 academically gifted school children in Kerala's government-aided schools. He is a life trustee at the College of Engineering Trivandrum Alumni Galaxy Charitable Trust and an active participant towards various educational causes.

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News Network
September 23,2020

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Riyadh, Sept 23: Saudi Arabia on Wednesday suspended air travel to and from India, Brazil and Argentina, in view of the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the country's Civil Aviation Authority, people with travel history to any of the mentioned countries 14 days prior to their arrival to the Kingdom, have also been barred.

"Suspending travel to and from the following countries (India, Brazil, and Argentina) including any person who has been in any of the mentioned countries in the last (14) days prior to their arrival to the Kingdom," General Authority of Civil Aviation said in a statement.

However, those who have official government invitations are excluded.

Saudi Arabia to re-allow umrah pilgrimage

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia has allowed pilgrims residing inside the country to undertake the umrah pilgrimage beginning on October 4, after a seven-month pause due to coronavirus concerns, state news agency SPA reported.

Umrah is an Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina undertaken any time of the year, attracting 19 million people last year.

Saudi Arabia had instituted a freeze on umrah in March.

It will now allow 6,000 citizens and residents inside the kingdom to perform umrah daily, representing 30% of a revised capacity of 20,000 that takes into account precautionary health measures, SPA added. That will expand to 75% of capacity on October 18.

Beginning November 1, Saudi Arabia will allow visitors from specific countries deemed safe to perform umrah at 100% of the revised capacity, until the end of the pandemic, SPA said.

This year, Saudi Arabia conducted a limited haj, the larger pilgrimage that usually attracts around 3 million people, for a few thousand citizens and residents.

Official data show haj and umrah earn the kingdom about 12 billion USD a year.

On Tuesday, Saudi Arabia reported 330,798 total cases of coronavirus and 4,542 deaths, as cases in the Gulf region topped 800,000.

Global COVID-19 cases

The overall number of global coronavirus cases has topped 31.5 million, while the deaths have increased to more than 969,000, according to Johns Hopkins University.

As of Wednesday morning, the total number of cases stood at 31,517,087 and the fatalities rose to 969,578, the University's Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) revealed in its latest update.

The US is the worst-hit country with the world's highest number of cases and deaths at 6,896,218 and 200,786, respectively, according to the CSSE.

India comes in second place in terms of cases at 5,562,663, while the country`s death toll soared to 90,020.

The other top 15 countries with the maximum amount of cases are:

             Brazil (4,591,364)

             Russia (1,111,157)

             Colombia (777,537)

             Peru (768,895)

             Mexico (705,263)

             Spain (682,267)

             South Africa (663,282)

             Argentina (652,174)

             France (507,150)

             Chile (448,523)

             Iran (429,193)

             UK (406,058)

             Bangladesh (352,178)

             Saudi Arabia (330,798)

             Iraq (327,580)

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News Network
September 16,2020

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Tbilisi, Sept 16: The United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) has approved the setting up of a regional office in Riyadh to support the growth of the Middle East’s tourism sector as it recovers from the coronavirus pandemic.

Minister of Tourism Ahmed Al-Khateeb said the UNWTO’s Executive Council members have approved the move to establish the office during a session in Georgia. The office will cover 13 countries within the region, and will serve as a platform to build long-term growth in the travel and tourism sector of the Middle East.

“International cooperation and the role of the UNWTO are more important than ever. I am therefore very excited that Saudi Arabia will become home to the first ever UNWTO Regional Office, which aims to support growth at a national and regional level,” Al-Khateeb said.

“In Saudi Arabia, we are very aware of the transformative power of tourism on the economy and people. We may still be a young destination, but tourism is at the forefront of Saudi Arabia’s vision for the future,” he added.

Recently, Al-Khateeb revealed that the Council of Ministers has given the Ministry of Tourism the go ahead to open a regional office of the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) in Riyadh as well as to establish a global academy for tourism training.

Al-Khateeb pointed out that the ministry, in cooperation with UNWTO, would work to lay the foundations and standards that enable the proposed academy to be among the best tourism academies in the world.

It is noteworthy that that the UNWTO secretary general praised the Saudi Summer season during a recent visit to the Kingdom during which he toured a number of Saudi summer destinations. Al-Khateeb hoped that the Kingdom, together with UNWTO, would launch a set of initiatives to develop the tourism sector in the region.

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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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