The parents of hundreds of students stranded overseas are appealing to the UAE government to let their sons and daughters come home, despite the travel restrictions due to Covid-19.
Studying at universities around the world, the youngsters became trapped outside the country when borders closed. And now approximately 450 parents are appealing to authorities, asking them to make an exception for their children, who no longer have valid UAE residency visas, to be granted permission to return to the country and be reunited with their families.
Those with valid residency visas have been allowed to start flying back to the UAE from June 1, and parents are hoping that their children, who had previously been UAE residents, will be allowed to return too.
A Dubai-based Indian resident, Namita Saifi, explained that one of her two children, aged 22, is stuck in Toronto, Canada. “My child cannot return because authorities have specifically said only those who have visas can return. My child is dependent on me, and he is alone in Canada. Online courses have been announced for the next term, and students are depressed as they are away from family.”
Campuses across the US, UK and Europe shut down in mid-March and students were asked to vacate dormitories to prevent the spread of Covid-19. This meant having to find new accommodation at high personal cost suddenly. Thousands of students with valid UAE residency visas did then fly home on the advice of the Ministry of Education and National Emergency Crisis and Disaster Management Authority. However, many children of expatriates, who were no longer sponsored by their parents and did not qualify for visa-on-arrival, were unable to return.
“If a special category can be created to help parents who have children stuck abroad without UAE visas, we can be heard on a case-by-case basis and would have someone to reach out to,” said Ms Saifi. “Our children have spent their entire life with their family here in the UAE. Many visas have expired as late as last year, and the children are now currently stuck abroad where they had gone for further studies. The situation for them is getting really tough, both physically and mentally.”
Daughters can be sponsored by their parent until she is married while sons can only be sponsored until the age of 18 unless he is studying in the UAE or abroad. In this case, he can be sponsored yearly until he turns 21. For his visa to stay valid, he has to enter the UAE at least once every six months.