Thousands of stranded expats start returning to Oman

Oman Wednesday 01/September/2021 21:14 PM
By: Times News Service

Muscat: Thousands of expatriates from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and 18 other countries have started returning to Oman, following the lifting of the entry ban that prevented them from coming back.

From September 1 onward, passengers are able to once again fly freely to Oman, provided they test negative for COVID-19 ahead of their flight.

The three nations were among those on Oman’s red list on May 24 this year, as part of measures to stop the spread of the pandemic. This meant that people who had spent at least 14 days in these countries were not permitted to enter Oman.

Representatives of the three expat communities in Oman are glad their countrymen can now return. About 10,500 Indians, and a further 500 teachers are waiting an early return to Oman. About 5,000 to 7,000 Pakistanis, and at least 12,000 Bangladeshis are also waiting. In this context, KK Ahsan Wagan, the envoy of Pakistan to Oman, said a large number of those looking to come back include spouses of expats in Oman, as well as Omani parents whose children still hold Pakistani nationality.

“Every day, before the announcement on the lifting of travel restrictions, we used to receive 100 to 200 emails and messages from my community members who were stuck in Pakistan and wished to return back to Oman to resume their jobs or businesses,” he said.

“I deeply appreciate the decisions taken, which will enable Pakistani nationals to return to Oman. I wish to thank the Oman government for lifting the ban and allowing entry of expatriates who were stuck in their respective countries,” he added.

Mizanur Rehman, the ambassador of Bangladesh to Oman, said about 10,000 of his countrymen were also waiting for the entry ban to end so they can return.

Sirajul Hoque, chairman, Bangladesh Social Club Oman, was also looking forward to see his countrymen once again board flights for Oman. “It is good they have been allowed to return,” he said.

Adding to this, Munu Mahawar, the ambassador of India to Oman, said the entry ban had caused hardship to families who have become divided because their inability to travel.

“We welcome the decision to ease restrictions on entry of travellers from India which will enable the stranded Indian nationals to return to Oman for work, and to reunite with their loved ones,” he said.

“The COVID situation in India has hugely improved with positivity rate remaining consistently below three per cent. The number of daily new cases has also drastically come down.”

“India’s COVID vaccination drive has recently crossed a significant milestone, as more than 50 per cent of the eligible population has been vaccinated with at least one dose. We are administering on an average six to seven million doses daily. A few days ago, more than 10 million doses were administered in a single day and the total number of doses administered has crossed 600 million.”

The ambassador added, “While it is very difficult to give a definitive figure for the number of Indian nationals looking to return to Oman where they live and work, many residents had travelled to India over the last few months for different reasons and would like to return.”

Prior to the lifting of travel restrictions, non-Omani arrivals from the following 21 countries were not permitted to enter Oman: Sudan, Brazil, Nigeria, Tanzania, Sierra Leone, Ethiopia, India, the UK, Pakistan, Bangladesh, the Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, Indonesia, Iraq, Iran, Tunisia, Libya, Argentina, and Colombia.