DUBAI: Recent data collected by the Pakistan Consulate in Dubai indicate that over 10,000 Pakistani nationals in the United Arab Emirates may have lost their jobs due to the economic slowdown caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
Ahmed Amjad Ali, Consul General of Pakistan to Dubai, told Arab News on Thursday that these were estimated figures based on the data collected over the past few days from those who registered to travel back to Pakistan amid the COVID-19 concerns.
“We had asked the citizens to mention the reason why they should be given preference to travel back to Pakistan once special flights were arranged. More than 10,000 of those who registered claimed that they needed to leave because they had lost their jobs. Some of them may be going on unpaid leaves, but we are still trying to assess that,” he said.
Almost 20,000 people have registered with the consulate since it asked Pakistani nationals to enlist themselves on April 3 if they desired to travel back to their country.
“It must be cleared here that of these 10,000, many have registered more than one time and we are still trying to sort out the details,” said Ali.
The UAE is home to 1.2 million Pakistanis out of which over 400,000 are based in Dubai alone. Pakistanis collectively comprise around 13 percent of Dubai’s population and are the third largest ethnic group in the emirate (after the Indians and the Emiratis).
Most Pakistanis dominate the transport sector: Some of them provide logistical services while others are crane operators or taxi drivers. Due to the current shut down and steps taken by the UAE government to contain the spread of virus, many of these sectors have been affected to such an extent that the staff have either been laid off, sent on unpaid leave or asked to take salary cuts.
“A majority of Pakistanis here work in the construction, transport and security services sectors. Others drive taxis, too. So it is likely that those facing employment issues may belong to these sectors,” said the consul.
Asked about flight arrangements to take stranded Pakistanis home, Ali said that it was being worked out. “We are doing our best to make the arrangements and are in talks with the authorities both in the UAE and Pakistan to resolve this issue as soon as possible,” he said.
Priority is being given to emergency cases that include medical cases, repatriation of dead bodies, the elderly, tourists and people who whose visit visas are expiring or have expired and those who do not have accommodation in Dubai.
On Sunday, hundreds of Pakistanis gathered outside the consulate to collect ration packs and register with the diplomatic mission to go home despite the emirate-wide lockdown, following which the consulate suspended all consular services.
It also hired Uber motorcyclists to deliver food to the needy in Dubai.
Electronic engineer Umair Alam, who has been in the UAE since 2016, told Arab News that he had not received any salary for the past three months. “At this point I have registered for ration only because I have been out of work for the past three months,” he said.
“But my future in the country will be decided once things acquire normalcy,” he said.
Irfanullah, a 39-year-old from Gujrat, said he had lost his job as a driver and wished to go back home. “I am also a heart patient and don’t have any job. I’m stuck here without any help,” he said.
Giving data for the last year, the Ministry of Overseas Pakistanis and Human Resource Development said that as many as 176,947 Pakistani workers came to the UAE on employment visas during the first 10 months of 2019 which constituted an increase of 1.7 percent.