UAE allows conditional entry to NepalisThe decision comes as a relief to only those workers vaccinated in the UAE and possessing valid visas.
Nawaraj Bohara had been living with his heart in his mouth all these months.
The 40-year-old had returned to Nepal on a job break from the United Arab Emirates on March 8. He was supposed to report back to his job in Dubai in May, but he was unable to fly back.
Soon after Bohara returned home, the Covid-19 situation started getting worse in Nepal and the UAE. Wary that lockdowns and travel restrictions could prevent him from returning to his work, he decided to cut short his job break and fly back to Dubai.
But his plan was derailed as he got tested positive for Covid-19.
“I had come home for two months. As my vacation would be over soon, I wanted to return as early as possible,” said Bohara, who works at a restaurant chain in Dubai. “However, I tested positive on May 3, my flight date, so I could not return.”
Days later, Nepal banned all international flights from May 6 midnight, owing to the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic. On May 13, the UAE also banned commercial passenger flights from Nepal and other South Asian countries like Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh to prevent any possible spread of the coronavirus.
The ban meant Bohara, a resident of Naya Basti, Kathmandu, had no option than to wait for the resumption of international flights.
Even when the Nepal government resumed international flights to allow its foreign-bound migrant workers to join their jobs, the UAE continued its ban leaving Nepali migrants like Bohara stranded at home.
But a recent decision of the UAE government has come to the rescue of Nepali workers like Bohara, who feared losing their jobs due to the continued ban on Nepalis from entering the UAE.
The UAE government, on Tuesday, decided that it would allow Nepalis and other expats from India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nigeria and Uganda from where inbound flights were banned.
The decision that will be implemented from Thursday (August 5) have left workers like Bohara elated.
“I got lucky,” said Bohara, who must return to Dubai by the first week of September. “I’ve already been in Nepal for five months. For the last three months, I have been waiting for the ban to be eased. I had even planned to enter the UAE after transiting in Qatar and staying in quarantine, but that would be very expensive.”
While workers like Bohara, who received his first dose of Vero Cell vaccine on January 25 and the second on February 16 in the UAE, got lucky, the relaxation is conditional and only a certain section of expats, including a small number of Nepalis can benefit from it.
As per the decision of the UAE, only those individuals with valid residency visas who have received two doses of Covid-19 vaccines in the UAE, have completed 14 days after taking the second dose of the vaccine, and have vaccination certificates approved by UAE authorities will be granted entry.
The decision seems to have created confusion instead.
“It seems as if Nepali workers and also a section of the media got confused by the decision,” Meghraj Sapkota, a freelance Nepali journalist told the Post from the UAE. “The decision clearly mentions that those who have been vaccinated in the UAE can return. Nepali workers even if they have got both doses of the vaccine outside the UAE are still not allowed to enter.”
According to Sapkota, the decision will benefit only those workers who had returned to Nepal on their job breaks after receiving Covid-19 vaccine in the UAE itself.
“I believe it won’t benefit many Nepali workers as the number of Nepalis who were fully vaccinated in the UAE and had returned home would be small,” said Sapkota. “New job-seekers are still now allowed entry to the UAE. Only those who have valid residency visas and were vaccinated in the UAE can enter the country.”
The other groups likely to be benefitted by the UAE government’s latest decision include members of the medical force and staff including doctors, nurses and medical technicians. They can enter the UAE even if they are not vaccinated against Covid-19. Likewise, the same rule will be applicable for employees in the education sector, including professors and teachers, those who teach at universities, colleges, schools and other educational institutions in the UAE. Students, who are currently studying in the UAE, those with valid visas, on humanitarian grounds and/or cases, for instance, family reunion, need not be jabbed for coming to the UAE.
Local and federal government staff and those who need to undergo medical treatment in the UAE can also enter the country whether they are vaccinated or not, according to the rule.
But all the expats must take entry permission from the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs, submit vaccination certificates and PCR negative reports of 48-hours and maintain other Covid-19 safety precautions.
The decision, however, has led to Nepalis who have been unable to travel to the UAE for the past several months rushing to buy air tickets.
According to Sijan Kumar Shrestha, managing director of Orchid Tours and Travels Pvt Ltd, inquiries for tickets to the UAE have increased since Tuesday following the latest decision.
“Scores of people have been approaching us asking about tickets and booking tickets. Since there are limited flights and the demand is high, the price of tickets will be high,” said Shrestha. “Destinations like Dubai are good markets for travel agencies as well. With the resumption of flights, we hope ticket sales will be good.”
The Nepal Airlines’ latest international flights schedule from August 10 to August 31 shows it would be operating two weekly flights—on Tuesdays and Thursdays—to Dubai.
However, skyrocketing airfares, which have already added to the financial burdens of migrant workers since the resumption of regular commercial flights, have affected workers like Bohara.
Travel agents and workers say average Kathmandu-Dubai airfare has already gone up to Rs80,000-90,000.
But despite the expensive airfare, Bohara is determined to return to his job.
“I am just glad knowing that I will be able to return to Dubai due to the latest decision, which should have come earlier,” said Bohara. “If the tickets were cheaper, I would have been happier.”