COVID-19 pandemic leaves thousands of Pakistanis jobless, stranded in Gulf


After being laid off from their jobs because of the coronavirus pandemic, thousands of Pakistanis working in the Gulf States have appealed to their government to fly them home as they ran out of money and food.

At least 11,000 Pakistani workers, possibly many more, have been sacked over the past few days and can’t return home because of restrictions.

The numbers of foreign workers employed in the Gulf are vast. More than nine million Pakistanis, and millions of others from around Asia, are employed there. Pakistani workers abroad sent home more than US$20bn last year and remittances are crucial to the country’s economy.

But Pakistan’s government is reluctant to bring their workers home as they do not have the necessary medical infrastructure to accommodate the possible hundreds of COVID-19 cases coming from abroad.

The UAE has said it would review labour ties with states refusing to repatriate citizens after the ambassadors of India and Pakistan said their countries were not yet ready to do so.

“We’re aware of all of those who have been laid off and their plight,” Sayed Zulfiqar Bukhari, special assistant to Pakistan’s prime minister, told Reuters in Islamabad.

“We’re just waiting to create the right mechanism so that we don’t overburden the system of taking people in here,” he said, adding airlines needed to be equipped for safety.

Pakistan International Airlines is flying home 1,800 Pakistanis on Tuesday, out of about 40,000 who will be repatriated, mostly from the Middle East. They include 410 in the UAE, and 270 in Thailand and Japan, plus 400 pilgrims in Saudi Arabia. (Source: BBC)