First international flight from Saudi carries stranded workers to Sharjah

First International Flight out of Saudi Arabia airlifted 105 workers, who have been stranded after the country banned international flight services in light of rising COVID cases. They landed in Sharjah International Airport on the special chartered flight operated by Air Arabia at 6.30 pm on Thursday.

Sharjah: Amid the Covid-19 restrictions, five entities in UAE have joined hands and airlifted 105 workers, who have been stranded in Saudi Arabia after the country banned international flight services in light of rising positive cases.

The passengers arrived in Sharjah International Airport on the first special chartered flight out of Kingdom operated by Air Arabia at 6.30 pm on Thursday. They are employed at the Ocean Oilfield, which is an EPCIC company specialised in offshore and onshore projects, based in Sharjah Freezone. The labourers reached Saudi Arabia as part of a project in February and had wound up their work in April itself.

However, the team had to stay back in the Kingdom after the country suspended international flight services in a bid to contain the spread of the deadly Coronavirus. The lockdown has dealt a heavy blow to thousands of foreigners in Saudi as they were forced to stay indoors with no way to return to their homes.

The passengers were repatriated after obtaining the Federal Authority For Identity & Citizenship Approval, thanks to Mr Yaqoub Abdulla of Sharjah Freezone Authority and Sheikh Faisal bin Saud Al Qasimi, Director of Sharjah Airport Authority. Also, the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs, UAE Federal Government, Sharjah Police authorities, and Air Arabia were instrumental in bringing back the stranded workers.

“The 105 workers arrived in Sharjah in the evening on Thursday, much to the joy of their family members. This brought a huge relief to the workers whose return was uncertain for some time now,” M I Mohammed, Chairman, Ocean Oilfield, said. The Ocean Oilfield is a division of Amwaj Group, a family business corporation established four decades ago in Middle East.

Though the Kingdom has partially opened flights for countries repatriating their citizens, most of the stranded foreigners were unable to fly back due to the difficulty in obtaining approval.

“Obtaining approval is a tough task. After hearing the plight of the 105 workers stuck in the Kingdom, Mr Yaqoub Abdulla helped us to make all arrangements to obtain the ICA approval. It will bring an end to anxious wait for their family members,” Mr Mohammed added.

“Our team is extremely thankful to the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs, UAE Federal Government, the Sharjah Airport authorities, Air Arabia, Sharjah Freezone authorities, and Sharjah Police authorities, who stepped up to help them in the time of dire necessity,” he said.

Air Arabia authorities said that they ensured safe travel for the passengers and kept the prescribed safety standards well. “We know it is a vulnerable situation. We have to be extremely careful while repatriating the stranded passengers due to the Corona situation. The special charter flight was the first service to fly out from Saudi after the country banned international flights and Air Arabia has successfully operated the service with utmost care and diligence,” Mr Obadah Arwani, Area Manager of Air Arabia – UAE said.

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