By Ben Garcia
KUWAIT: Some expat families and workers stranded in Dubai en-route to Kuwait have finally decided to go back to their home countries. Some however are still waiting for a miracle, like a Filipina mother who has decided to stay a bit longer in Dubai in hope of reuniting with her family in Kuwait. Kuwait Times has no official numbers of workers stranded en route to Kuwait, but a source said there are hundreds, possibly thousands, of expats from countries like Egypt, India and the Philippines.
Flight restrictions started in March last year in order to stop the spread of the coronavirus in Kuwait. In Aug 2020, Kuwait resumed most flights but banned anyone traveling directly from a number of ‘high-risk countries’ from entering Kuwait. Passengers from these countries have to spend 14 days in a third country before arriving in Kuwait. Since the restrictions in March 2020, the airport has never returned to full operations.
When the new strain of COVID-19 was discovered in the UK in December last year, Kuwait re-imposed a new airport shutdown, besides restrictions on 68 countries with high numbers of coronavirus cases. The closure does not apply to air cargo operations. Kuwait continues to report record daily new coronavirus cases after it saw daily infections fall below 300 late last year from a peak of more than 1,000 in May 2020.
In a dilemma
Tessy, not her real name, has been in Dubai since Jan 23, hoping to enter Kuwait. “Last year I was waiting for a direct flight to Kuwait, but it did not happen. So on Jan 22, I finally decided to fly back to Kuwait via Dubai to be with my child and husband. My daughter, who is 13 years old, is alone daily in our flat in Salmiya when my husband goes to work. She has been attending online classes. I always call and support her studies online, but being away from her for a year now is driving me crazy,” Tessy said.
Tessy, who has a dependent visa, left Kuwait in Feb 2020. “I went home alone to the Philippines because my mother had died. Even though the situation was unclear at that time, I had to be with my mother because I loved her so much. I went home thinking I can come back in a month or so. My child was studying, so I told my husband to look after her. I am very afraid for her safety and have been in this state of mind over the last one year,” she agonized via call on Facebook Messenger.
“I was ready to stay in Dubai for 14 days. My flight to Kuwait was scheduled on Feb 8, but on Feb 7, they extended the ban on the entry of foreigners again. On Feb 21, Kuwait said it will allow foreigners to fly back, but then extended the ban indefinitely. Now, I don’t know what to do. I am in a dilemma whether to return back to the Philippines or remain in Dubai. We don’t have enough money. My only wish for now is to be able to reach Kuwait and be with my family,” she said.
“I am too stressed to handle my situation. I am even willing to walk from Dubai to Kuwait so long as I know I can be with my family. My visa will expire in May and my passport validity is less than a year. This is killing me slowly, mentally and physically,” Tessy lamented.
Kuwaiti authorities had earlier agreed for the return of foreigners, provided they quarantine for seven days at a local hotel and seven days at quarantine. Many expats were elated by the decision, but only a few days after this decision, Kuwait suspended the entry of foreigners indefinitely. Some expats had already booked hotel rooms.
A family from India who had booked a three-star hotel in Mangaf finally decided to go back to India tomorrow. “There is no hope for returning to Kuwait soon. I think the government is not ready yet for foreigners to come back. So my family and I decided to return to India for financial reasons. Our funds will not be able to sustain us anymore in Dubai, so we are going back to India,” the head of the family told Kuwait Times.
“Even if we feel we are unfairly treated by the uncertainty, we cannot do anything. At the end of the day, it is because of the coronavirus that we are all struggling, and we don’t blame Kuwait for this mishap. We hope we can still come back when everything is settled,” he said.