Despite the cancellation of their visas and going broke due to the COVID-19 outbreak, around 800 Kashmiris stranded in Dubai have pooled their money to arrange two chartered flights for their return to the valley. However, as the Centre is yet to grant clearance for their landing in Srinagar, they are unable to come back home.
“We have somehow managed, by pooling money, to arrange and then secure an approval for non-stop chartered flights to be operated by Fly Dubai on June 9 and 10. The dates are pending approval by the authorities in Dubai and Srinagar airports. All other formalities have been completed,” Aamir Rafiq, who is among those stranded in Dubai, claimed.
The people have appealed to the Centre to evacuate them to Kashmir as they were facing severe problems without jobs. The Kashmiris said they were under distress with some of them facing medical emergencies, visa issues and others running out of money.
Sajad Ahmad, one of them, said so far only one flight under the government’s Vande Bharat Mission had been operated from Dubai. The first flight under the mission was in May and another is scheduled for June 11 in which about 150 of them are being sent back, he said.
“My visa has been cancelled by the company because of coronavirus. It has been three months without any salary. Now I do not have any money left,” he said.
Another Kashmiri, who did not wish to be identified, said most of them had no sources of income and depend on some well-to-do Kashmiri families in Dubai who are providing them food. “There are many medical emergencies. Many people have lost jobs, some have travel visas and we have no sources of survival left now,” he said.
Meanwhile, officials at the Srinagar airport said the people had approached authorities regarding the chartered flights.
However, a decision has to be taken by the ministries of external affairs, defence, civil aviation, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) and the Airports Authority of India in consultation with the civil administration, they said.
“This is not something directly under the authority of Srinagar airport. For any international flight, the approval of the MEA is a must. Since this airport is a defence airfield, the approval of MoD (Ministry of Defence) is also required,” an official at the airport said.
“After securing the permission from these four, it goes to an apex team which includes AAI and Air Force for slot availability. Then, the civil administration is required to approve the flight landing because it is COVID time and it has to be checked whether they could handle the flight on a given day and time or not,” he said.
The official said the Srinagar airport had no problem in permitting the flights to land once the required approvals were secured.