Pakistan has begun bringing back some of its citizens from the United Arab Emirates (UAE), which had threatened to review labor ties with countries refusing to take back their nationals during the novel coronavirus pandemic.
The first Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) flight carrying 227 “stranded passengers” from Dubai and other emirates left for Islamabad on Saturday evening, Pakistan’s consulate general in Dubai said in a Twitter post.
More than 40,000 Pakistanis in the Gulf Arab state have registered with the consulate to return home, two UAE newspapers reported.
Special flights are planned to repatriate more than 3,000 passengers from the UAE to Pakistan this week.
At least four flights will be operated by PIA from Dubai Today. Two flights are scheduled for Lahore and two more to Karachi. “At least 1,000 stranded passengers will be flown home on these four flights on Monday,” a top diplomat told various news agencies.
The UAE and other Gulf states have reported increased infections among low-income migrant workers who live in overcrowded quarters. Some have moved to re-house them in shuttered schools or dedicated centers, and are trying to arrange flights to repatriate them. On Sunday, the UAE announced 479 new cases and four more deaths, bringing its total to 6,781 cases and 41 deaths so far.
The UAE last week said it would review labor relations with states refusing to evacuate citizens, including those who have lost jobs or been put on leave, after the ambassadors of India and Pakistan said their countries were not yet ready to do so.
PIA said on its website that it would not be able to provide services for inbound flights beyond Islamabad International Airport amid a suspension of domestic flights and a lockdown in the country.