Dubai Police take in families from Ghana after dozens found homeless

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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - A group of men and women who were homeless and out of work have been taken in by Dubai Police.

Several dozen people - all from Ghana - were found sleeping in a park in the city's Satwa district, officials said.

At least 40 to 50 have been taken to an accommodation site in Jebel Ali.

Officers said they were in contact with Ghana's consulate, where dozens had gathered on Monday to ask for help. They hope to return home when their country begins repatriation flights.

Many of the group said they lost their jobs before the coronavirus outbreak, and some since, while others came to the country to search for work on visit visas and were stranded when the borders closed on March 19.

We know many of them have lost their jobs or are on visit visas

Dubai Police spokesman

"We wanted to help solve this problem because we know many of them have lost their jobs or are on visit visas," a Dubai Police spokesman told The National.

"After we were alerted of their situation, we transported about 40 or 50 of them to some accommodation where they could sleep.

"We are in contact with the embassy and consulate to help these people."

The site in Jebel Ali is a series of tents with air conditioning, where officers said the group could stay until their embassy was able to help them.

When pictures of the group sleeping in the park emerged on social media, residents from across the city delivered food and water to help.

Moses, a father-of-five, was one of the men given accommodation.

“Now we have food and drink and a safe place to rest,” he said.

Dubai, United Arab Emirates - Reporter: Kelly Clarke. News. Nihau Sharubutu. Ghanaian nationals sleeping in a park in Dubai as many left jobless due to Covid. Monday, June 1st, 2020. Dubai. Chris Whiteoak / The National
Nuhu Sharubutu lost his job last summer and paid to extend a visit visa while he looked for work. Chris Whiteoak / The National

“I was sleeping in the park for about a week and volunteers were bringing us food. It was very difficult in the heat.

“Some police officers came on Sunday night and told us they will get us accommodation and within a few minutes a bus arrived and took us to Jebel Ali.

“The police have consoled us, motivated us. We didn’t get this from our own government but the UAE people, they’ve helped us.”

Coronavirus outbreak

Moses said he arrived in Dubai on December 12 on a visit visa to look for work. After months of job hunting with no luck, he ran out of money.

He wants to stay in the UAE to find a job, but will likely have to return home.

Michael Agyapong, 23, was one of the group who did not opt for temporary accommodation. He said he would stay on another day in the park and visit the consulate, which is nearby, each day in the hope of getting home.

He said he arrived in Dubai on March 3 after parting with more than Dh5,000 to secure a visit visa and flight ticket.

He said a friend who worked in Dubai assured him he would find work quickly, but that job opportunities dried up when the outbreak hit.

“I don’t have social media, I don’t follow news much, so I was not aware of how bad the pandemic was getting when I came,” said the father-of-one.

“I paid Dh700 for a room share in Dubai and then moved to Ajman because it was cheaper. I paid Dh400 for a bed space."

Unable to find a job, Mr Agyapong called a travel agent in mid-March to book a return flight home, but then the borders closed on March 19.

"Now I have no money left, I need our consulate and government to help me get home," he said.

Dubai, United Arab Emirates - Reporter: Kelly Clarke. News. Annan Mohammed Acheampong. Ghanaian nationals sleeping in a park in Dubai as many left jobless due to Covid. Monday, June 1st, 2020. Dubai. Chris Whiteoak / The National
Mohammed Acheampong hopes to return home soon. Chris Whiteoak / The National

"I’ve been sleeping outside for about one month now and I don't have funds to buy a flight ticket when they become available.

“I don’t want to be a burden on the UAE and keep taking food and drink from people, it brings shame on me, I just want to go home to my daughter, mum and dad."

Some people in the group, who did not want to be named, said their employers still had their passports - which is against the law - despite being let go from their job.

Though the borders of Ghana remain closed as part of measures to curb the spread of Covid-19, the group said they are relying on their government to arrange “chartered flights” to help them return to loved ones.

I don’t want to be a burden on the UAE and keep taking food and drink from people, I just want to go home to my daughter, mum and dad

Michael Agyapong

In April, a similar scheme was set up by the Indian government that allowed Indian expats to board repatriation flights home, despite a total lockdown in India.

More than 350,000 people have signed up, with about 16,000 returning home to date, the Indian Embassy said this week. Many had lost jobs or received salary due to the global economic impact of Covid-19. Others were tourists stranded in the country when flights were grounded.

Since the flights were launched, thousands of Indian nationals have been reunited with loved ones.

The Consulate General of Ghana said it was working to resolve the issue but declined to discuss the matter further.

Updated: June 2, 2020 05:52 PM

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