Pakistan says it will repatriate thousands more citizens from the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.), which had threatened to review labor relations if countries did not take back their nationals from the Gulf state due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Pakistan Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Aisha Farooqui said on April 19 that a third phase of repatriations would begin between April 20 and 28.
Fourteen flights are scheduled to take Pakistani nationals from the U.A.E. during this period, the Foreign Ministry said. Six other flights are planned to repatriate Pakistani nationals from other countries, including Bahrain and Malaysia.
The first Pakistan International Airlines flight carrying 227 "stranded passengers" from Dubai and other emirates left for Islamabad on the evening of April 18, Pakistan's consulate-general in Dubai said in a Twitter post.
More than 40,000 Pakistani nationals have registered with the Dubai consulate to return home, the U.A.E. newspaper The National reported.
Pakistan is a major labor supplier to the U.A.E., with more than 1 million Pakistanis living and working in the country.
The U.A.E. said earlier in April it would review labor relations with states refusing to evacuate citizens as thousands of migrant laborers lost jobs or did not receive salaries from employers due to lockdowns imposed over the coronavirus pandemic.
In March, the U.A.E. suspended all passenger flights, leaving migrants stranded in the country as authorities demanded foreign governments take their citizens.
The U.A.E. and other Gulf states reliant on foreign labor have reported increased coronavirus infections among low-income migrant workers who often live in crowded conditions.
Pakistan has warned it has limited quarantine and testing facilities to handle repatriated nationals, raising concerns laborers could become a vector for the spread of the virus.
The pandemic is likely to impact the remittances Pakistani workers send home.
With reporting by Reuters