In pictures: India begins repatriating stranded workers from Abu Dhabi and Dubai
The first wave of a massive exercise to repatriate hundreds of thousands of Indians stuck abroad began Thursday, with two flights landing in India from the United Arab Emirates.
India has begun repatriating its citizens from the UAE due to border closures following the outbreak of Covid-19.
A total of 350 passengers onboard two flights departed from the UAE on Thursday evening after the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation (MoFAIC) facilitated the evacuation operation in coordination with the Indian Embassy and Consulate.
Pavan Kapoor, Indian Ambassador to the UAE, commended the excellent coordination between the two nations in facilitating the phased evacuation measures through the country's airports.
Khalid Abdullah Belhoul, Undersecretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, underlined the Ministry's keenness to streamline evacuation measures in coordination with all concerned departments in the country.
He also praised the medical screening measures conducted by UAE authorities to ensure that all passengers were symptom-free before departure.
Indian citizens with coveted tickets, arriving at Abu Dhabi and Dubai airports, were greeted by medics in masks, gloves and plastic aprons who took blood samples for antibody tests.
"We have one or two flights planned every day now for the next five or six days," Consul General Vipul, who goes by one name, told AFP at Dubai airport.
Vipul said most of those aboard were workers who had lost their jobs, together with pregnant women, the elderly and some stranded tourists.
But the novel coronavirus and its devastating economic impact have left many workers sick and others unemployed, unpaid and at the mercy of sometimes unscrupulous employers.
UAE home to a 3.3-million-strong Indian community which makes up some 30 percent of the Gulf state's population.