Exclusive: Kerala CM says UAE quarantine facilities 'inadequate'

In letter seen by Al Jazeera, chief minister of Indian state Kerala shares concerns amid coronavirus pandemic with Modi.

The chief minister of India’s Kerala state has urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to repatriate Indian workers in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) amid the coronavirus pandemic, expressing alarm over the Gulf country’s response to the health emergency.

In a letter sent on April 9, Pinarayi Vijayan revealed that numerous complaints were being received over “inadequate isolation and quarantine facilities” in the UAE, which is currently hosting more than three million migrant workers from India, according to the United Nations.

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“Most of these requests convey that preventive measures and quarantine methods implemented in Dubai are neither effective nor adequate,” Vijayan said in the letter obtained by Al Jazeera.

“As we know, the majority of Keralites [nearly one million in the UAE] are blue collar workers and living in crowded facilities in Dubai and therefore the probability of spreading of the disease is very high.”

Vijayan requested Modi to take up the issue with the UAE’s government to “ensure adequate food, medicines, quarantine and emergency service facilities to India diaspora in Dubai”. 

In a second letter, which Vijayan shared on his Twitter page on Monday, the chief minister requested a “favourable consideration” and confirmed that the state government will undertake “testing and quarantining needs of the Keralities” who are returning.

“At the earliest opportune time, Government of India may consider arranging special flights to bring these people back.”

On Thursday, a Dubai welfare group, the Kerala Muslim Cultural Centre, filed a petition in an Indian High Court urging the government to “permit chartered flights to evacuate thousands of its citizens in the UAE”, Abu Dhabi-based The National reported.

The petition said many Indians were running out of money and facing food shortages.

“We know of 10,000 people just from Kerala who want to come back home,” Haris Beeran, a lawyer representing the petitioners, told the newspaper.

“Many workers no longer have jobs [and] some people are on visit visas that have expired. They don’t have any means to live in the UAE and would rather return to their family at this time.”

The UAE has reported more than 4,120 cases of the coronavirus and 25 deaths, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

Aiming to contain the spread of the coronavirus among foreign workers, Dubai has sealed off two commercial districts.

UAE ministry’s warning

On Sunday, the UAE warned of possible action against countries refusing to allow migrant workers to be repatriated, Reuters news agency reported.

The Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation said it would review labour ties with countries refusing to repatriate citizens. It added it would consider strict quotas for work visas issued to nationals of those states.

“Several countries have not been responsive about allowing back their citizens who have applied to return home under the current circumstances,” the ministry was quoted as saying by Reuters news agency.

On Saturday, India’s ambassador to the UAE said it could not repatriate large numbers of nationals while trying to combat the virus at home.

“Once the lockdown in India is lifted, we will certainly help them get back to their hometowns and their families,” Pavan Kapoor told the Dubai-based Gulf News.

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