UAE stands with India and Indian expatriates
Indians have contributed to make UAE successful. We will remain a place of opportunity and tolerance for migrants
Of the more than 200 nationalities that form the diverse and tolerant society we cherish in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), it is difficult to think of a single expatriate community that has contributed more to building the fabric of our nation than people from India. UAE and India enjoy a shared history that pre-dates the world’s geopolitical boundaries as we know them today. Migration, trade and cultural interchange between our peoples go back centuries. The strong relations between our governments have allowed these ties to flourish.
The entrepreneurship and work ethic of Indians is known, indeed admired globally. In UAE, this business acumen has given the country some of its most recognised brands such as the Lulu Hypermarkets, Jumbo Electronics, GEMS Education, and the Landmark Group. Culturally, UAE is the richer for the enormous contributions the people from India have made to our diversity through religion, food, cinema, art, education, and, of course, cricket. Indian expatriates have been involved in the rapid evolution of UAE’s economy. Apart from constituting a large number of white collar professionals, they also provide the bulk of the country’s manual labour force. It is no exaggeration to state that UAE would not be the successful and prosperous nation it is today without their help.
Like all good partnerships, this is a symbiotic relationship. UAE has provided fertile ground to make a good living. It has invested heavily in providing an environment that is business-friendly as well as tolerant, open, welcoming, and safe.
Last year, AED 169 billion ($46 billion) in remittances flowed out of UAE — more than half of it into the countries of South Asia, of these India primarily. This remittance flow is the second highest in the world.
In these past few months, the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic has rocked the economies of the world, including our own. Many businesses have been forced to temporarily close and most air routes suspended. In all countries, expatriate workers tend to be the most vulnerable to economic shocks, and UAE government is aware of its duty of caring for its large expatriate workforce.
I want to assure you that we are doing everything we can to support workers during this difficult time. Our priority is health and well-being, including providing free Covid-19 testing and free medical treatment for anyone who requires it, regardless of legal status, occupation or nationality. Those who test positive are moved to high-quality isolation facilities to continue their treatment while not infecting others.
The UAE government has legislated to ensure that the most vulnerable of workers continue to receive food and accommodation, even if they are temporarily out of work, and has introduced measures to provide financial support to them and their families. A nationwide Ten Million Meals campaign was underway during Ramadan to ensure no one in UAE went hungry.
The government has also granted automatic extensions of all visas, including residency and work permits. Those who are currently unable to work in their chosen field can register to participate in an online labour market where employees can take temporary job assignments without impacting their employment rights or status.
Some workers will prefer to return to their home countries during these uncertain times.We have been working with many governments to assist in this . We have facilitated the return of a large number of people to their homes countries. Since the Indian government began its repatriation process on May 7, hundreds of special flights have seen tens of thousands return from UAE, with more flights being added weekly.
I would like to personally thank the Indian government for its cooperation and friendship. We very much hope that this is “see you soon” however, and not goodbye — an Early Leave Initiative allows workers who wish to return home temporarily to take leave entitlements or leave without pay while having their terms of employment held open until their return. UAE’s leadership has provided assurances that our economy is well poised to bounce back once the pandemic eases. We are fortunate to possess the infrastructure, resources, and the determination to bring about a speedy recovery. In the meantime, work goes on in many sectors. Construction and large-scale infrastructure projects continue. Freight logistics services are perhaps more important than ever.
And it isn’t just our society we are working hard to support. UAE is also making significant humanitarian aid contributions during Covid-19, supplying more than 570 tonnes of medical equipment and other supplies to more than 50 nations, including those of South Asia. This is a global crisis and we can only recover from it if we work together.
While the current situation may seem bleak, we are both forward-thinking and optimistic nations that have thrived following bigger challenges than Covid-19. I have no doubt that we will emerge more resilient from this crisis, and that UAE will continue to be a place of opportunity and tolerance for Indian migrants and indeed all those who want to build a better life, both for themselves and the wider world.