A Dubai charity has issued free air tickets to a group of Ghanaian citizens who were left unemployed and homeless due to the Covid-19 outbreak.
At 9.30am on Friday, the 44 men and women will board an Emirates repatriation flight at Dubai International Airport bound for Accra.
Many of them were stuck in the country on visit visas when the UAE’s borders closed to prevent the spread of the virus on March 19. Others lost their jobs before or during the pandemic.
The one-way ticket, priced at Dh2,500, was distributed free-of-charge to the individuals by Dar Al Ber Society, a Dubai-based charity.
Naomi Doghan, 21, received her confirmation to fly home on Thursday evening.
“It feels so good to be holding the piece of paper that will get me home to my family,” she told The National.
“I arrived in the UAE on September 19 to look for a job.
“I worked in a house for a few months as a maid but I was let go by my employer in December and have been on a visit visa ever since.
“I cannot wait to finally hug my mum and dad. This charity has been a true blessing for me because without it I would struggle to raise money to buy a ticket to my country.”
Two repatriation flights, organised by the Ghanaian Embassy in Abu Dhabi, left the country on June 12 and June 16.
On July 13, Emirates then announced a third repatriation flight scheduled to depart on July 17.
Speaking at the ticket distribution event on Thursday at the charity’s headquarters, Dr Hisham Al Zahrani, manager of the Zakat department, said it housed “more than 100 individuals” in temporary accommodation in Al Quoz over the past few months.
As well as providing free air tickets, housing and food and drink, the charity also paid a medical bill for 38-year-old Ibrahim Bonkano, who underwent surgery to remove a blood clot near his eye.
“My parents back home say the people at Dar Al Ber have been like my guardian angels,” said Mr Bonkano.
“They saved me when I had no place to sleep.
“I have had this growth on my face, like a blood clot, for more than one year and they took me to the hospital to finally have it removed.
“I will never forget what these people in the UAE have done for me.”
Mr Bonkano arrived in the Emirates in 2018 and worked as a waiter before being let go by his employer on March 25.
He said his final Dh1,500 salary lasted until April, but after that he struggled to pay for accommodation.
“I went to my consulate for help and found many people in the same position as me,” he said.
“Our government could not help us but this Dubai charity did, I am forever thankful.
“I cannot wait to be reunited with my family in Ghana as it has been more than two years since I have seen them.”
For Kelvin Boye, 26, Friday could not come quick enough.
“I have my ticket and I am ready to go home to my family,” he said.
“I came to Dubai on a visit visa in October, worked as a cleaner for some months but then lost my job due to coronavirus.
“I did want to stay and look for another job but I am not earning money so cannot support myself.
“I want to thank the charity who got my ticket, they have been my biggest blessing.”