Pakistani businessman offers free shelter in Dubai for pandemic-hit migrant workers

In this file photo, health workers look on as Pakistani nationals check in at the Dubai International Airport before leaving the Gulf Emirate on a flight back to their country, on May 7, 2020. (AFP)
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Updated 19 June 2020

Pakistani businessman offers free shelter in Dubai for pandemic-hit migrant workers

  • Over 100 people of different nationalities are currently staying at three Dubai accomodations set up by businessman Ali Rao
  • Tens of thousands of migrant workers registered to be repatriated from UAE since the virus outbreak 

DUBAI: Earlier this month, when Dubai-based Pakistani businessman Ali Rao came across news in the media that 25 people rendered homeless by the coronavirus pandemic were sleeping in a park, he knew he had to do something to help.

On June 9, he sent members of his staff and transportation to pick them up and temporarily house them in a company home. Only 14 of the 25 homeless men initially agreed to come back with Rao’s staff that day, but as word slowly spread, another 35 men arrived. On Wednesday, 31 Pakistani nationals who had been sleeping on roadsides for more than two weeks also moved in.

Today, over 100 people of varying nationalities are staying at three shelters provided by Rao, whose company has operated in Dubai for about seven years and deals primarily in industrial housing and real estate.

A semi-furnished room at the sharing accommodation (Supplied)

“At first [when we went to pick them up] they were hesitant and thought they were in trouble but they are settled in now,” Rao told Arab News on Thursday. Most of the homeless people he has housed recently lost their jobs and were awaiting repatriation, Rao said, adding that plane tickets to get back home cost more than most of them could afford.

“So I will also try and contribute [for their tickets] along with a few other businessmen,” he said. “But until they are able to leave, they and anyone else who does not have accommodation are welcome to use this place to stay.”

The shelters, located in Dubia’s Al Quoz, Jebel Ali and Muhaisnah areas, house up to six single men in a room. Meals are provided by a number of Dubai-based charity organizations which also carry out background checks and coronavirus diagnostic tests of those seeking accommodation.

“They are also provided with a bed, a pillow and a blanket; in other words, basic necessities including a Wifi so that they can connect with their families back home,” Rao said.

A homeless man being transported to the accommodation in Dubai on June 17, 2020. (Supplied)

As the region’s tourism and business hub with one of the world’s busiest international airports, Dubai’s economy has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic. To date, there are upwards of 43,000 coronavirus cases in the United Arab Emirates.

Many people have lost jobs or had incomes reduced. Tens of thousands of migrant workers, who often live in crowded shared accommodation where the virus spreads more easily, have registered to be repatriated.

One such person is Ghanian national Danie Donkar, 30, who had been sleeping in a park in Dubai for two weeks until he was offered a roof over his head by Rao.

“I was doing odd jobs at construction sites until everything shut down due to coronavirus and I neither had a place to stay nor anything to eat,” Donkar told Arab News on Thursday. “I had a flight to catch on June 16 but due to some clearance issues related to overstaying my visa, I was sent back,” he said, adding that he was comfortable at his temporary home and eagerly waiting to get back home.

Pakistani Jahanzaib Malik, 25, was working as a helper at a construction company when he lost his job and ended up sleeping in a park for a month.

“Since Ramadan, I’ve been eating food given by charities so I managed somehow,” he said. Now he is staying comfortably at Rao’s accommodation, he said, and waiting for his sponsor to sort out his passport so he can fly back home. 

General Bajwa, Bill Gates discuss Pakistan’s anti-polio campaign 

Updated 16 min 28 sec ago

General Bajwa, Bill Gates discuss Pakistan’s anti-polio campaign 

  • The American business tycoon praises the army for supporting the anti-polio drive and ensuring its reach and coverage 
  • The army chief passes on the credit to ‘grassroots workers’ 

ISLAMABAD: Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa and American business tycoon and philanthropist Bill Gates spoke on telephone about Pakistan’s COVID-19 response and resumption of anti-polio campaign, said an official handout prepared and circulated by the military’s public relations wing, ISPR, on Saturday.
Gates applauded the Pakistan Army for supporting the anti-polio drive and ensuring the program’s proper reach and coverage.
In response, the army chief said that the effort to make Pakistan polio-free was a “national cause,” adding that the credit for running an effective campaign went to “grassroots workers, including mobile teams, law enforcement agencies and healthcare representatives.”
The two also discussed how to carry out a safe anti-polio drive for everyone amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“​Mr. Gates also appreciated Pakistan’s success against COVID-19 despite resource constraints,” said the statement. “The COAS attributed the success to a true national response executed through the mechanism of [National Command and Operation Center] which allowed optimization of resources.”
The American businessman reiterated the Gates Foundation’s ongoing commitment “to fight pandemics” around the world and to support Pakistan in its goals of ending polio and improving health for every child.