"It has been more than three months since my daughter has been stuck in India. We have the approval of the GDRFA (General Directorate of Residency and Foreign Affairs) for her, but the airlines are not accepting her booking, saying she is under 12," Poonam Sapre, a Dubai-based mother, complains.
Such is the scenario for many children under 12 years who have been left stranded in India and unable to return to their parents in the UAE, due to the COVID-19 lockdown,as multiple airlines are refusing to accept unaccompanied minors, according to a media report.
Starting July 12, Indians who want to return to the UAE have been given a 15-day window to travel back, on the condition that they have valid residency permits. They also have to produce a negative COVID-19 test result.
But parents of minors said they are feeling helpless as children are unable to avail of the travel opportunity despite having their return permits, the Khaleej Times reported.
"It has been more than three months since my daughter has been stuck in India. We have GDRFA (General Directorate of Residency and Foreign Affairs) approval for her but the airlines are not accepting her booking, saying she is under 12," Poonam Sapre, a Dubai-based mother, told the daily. Her daughter Eva Sapre, 10, is in Hyderabad and is awaiting a reunion with her parents.
"She is just 10 and it has already taken an emotional toll on her. She is eager to come back and is asking me every day about her return. This is so frustrating."
Barring Emirates and Etihad, other airlines including flydubai and Air Arabia are not accepting unaccompanied minors.
With India extending the travel freeze till July 31, normal flights are yet to resume and only special flights are allowed between India and the UAE under a bilateral agreement.
Sapre said only flydubai is flying the Hyderabad-Dubai route, and the carrier has restrictions on minors travelling alone. "My daughter is too young to fly through indirect routes," said Poornima. When the newspaper reached out to the airlines for comment, they said that such rules on unaccompanied minors were already in place even before COVID-19 travel restrictions came into effect.
Another Dubai-based distressed parent, who did not want to be named, said her eight-year-old son is in Kerala and is unable to fly due to airline policies on unaccompanied minors.
Faced with this eventuality, some parents are forced to fly out of the UAE so they can accompany their children on the flight back home.
An Indian mother, who is currently in Mumbai, said she flew out of Dubai on Monday morning solely for the purpose of bringing back her twin daughters, aged 10.
"I had no choice. Ideally, they could have travelled together, but under these circumstances I thought it best to get them with me personally," said the mother.