Sri Lankan jobseekers living in Dubai park moved to shelters

More than 20 Sri Lankans found sleeping in Al Hudaiba Park have been provided shelter, thanks to good samaritans in the community.

Social workers, the Sri Lankan Welfare Association Sahana, and the Consulate-General of Sri Lanka in Dubai came to the aid of the stranded nationals who were in the UAE on visit visas.

All of them came here on visit visas and were unable to find job opportunities, said Nalinda Wijerathna, the Consul-General of Sri Lanka in Dubai told Khaleej Times. “The mission, through community associations, has been offering stranded persons’ alternative accommodation arrangements,” he said.

Welfare groups confirmed that all homeless will be moved to shelters. “Most of us here do not have money to purchase return tickets or pay for quarantine once we reach there. We are without any faclities not even to take a bath. We live on food given by those who pass by,” said a stranded Sri Lankan.

Some are taking advantage of the situation

Various shelters run by Sahana were accommodating 110 distressed people, including women, said Vishwa Thilakarathna, board of director at Sahana.

“We had moved 20 people to shelters last week and now 10 more have set base at the same park. On Sunday, we were informed of this new group. We will accommodate them as soon as possible and repatriate them on the flight scheduled on September 10,” he said.

“We run these shelters with the support of our sponsors. Currently, we are looking for shelter homes where we can accommodate 100 more people at once,” he added.

“Those returning to Sri Lanka have to produce a negative PCR test and have to pay for institutional quarantine.

People who cannot afford it are being provided with these facilities,” said Thilakarathna.

“Some individuals were trying to take advantage and continuing to stay in the park to get first priority to return home,” he added.

Community comes forward to assist

Well-wishers in the neighbourhood were providing the group with food, water, mattresses and other basic amenities to help them survive the extreme weather conditions before the Sri Lankan diplomatic mission took over and transferred them to shelters organised by the Sahana.

A resident in the area, Indian national Pragya Shah has been providing the stranded individuals with hot food, biscuits and other amenities. She reached out to other Lankans in Dubai who put her in touch with the Sri Lankan Welfare Association.

“There were at least 25 distressed persons at one point and all of them were moved to shelters over the weekend. Now, some have returned. I have been providing them with food, snacks and other basic amenities. There is a growing concern as there is not much social distancing and they do not have clean sanitation either,” said Shah.

For many residents, it is difficult to watch these men and women sleep out in the heat. Kyle, a Filipino resident said. “It is very heart-breaking to see them in this state,” she said.

19,000 Sri Lankans to be repatriated

A large number of Sri Lankans in the UAE have registered to return home and many cannot afford paid quarantine, PCR tests and air tickets, said Nalinda Wijerathna, Consul-General of Sri Lanka in Dubai told Khaleej Times.

“Currently, there are 19,000 wishing to go back. Around 5,000 of those registered, who could not afford quarantine and air tickets, have returned. The mission paid for their requirements,” said Wijerathna.

“The airports in Sri Lanka is still not open for commercial operations, so these are special repatriation flights. Moreover, at a given time, only 7,000 international returnees can be placed in government quarantines and this too causes a slight delay in their return.”

Flights organised to Sri Lanka are done in partnership with Sri Lankan Airlines and some flights are also organised by Emirates Airlines.(Dhanusha Gokulan – Khaleejtimes)

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