Amnesty offers fresh start for illegal expats in UAE

Special Amnesty offers fresh start for illegal expats in UAE
Pakistan Association Dubai is providing legal sessions twice a week offering information and help with the amnesty. (GIUSEPPE CACACE/AFP)
Updated 04 August 2018

Amnesty offers fresh start for illegal expats in UAE

Amnesty offers fresh start for illegal expats in UAE
  • Thousands of people are expected to apply for latest scheme which will run till October 2018
  • Fines accumulated for overstaying a visa are forgiven and people with no other debts are free to leave the country

DUBAI: For Moiz Uddin, it is a bittersweet moment. He is relieved that the residency documentation for his wife and their five children has been processed by the UAE authorities and cleared. Very soon they will receive exit authorization and can return to Karachi safely without facing any legal problems. He, however, has to stay behind and pay off his debts.
The 35-year-old Pakistani and his family have been living illegally in the UAE for more than two years. His wife and children were cleared to leave the country after responding to the latest visa amnesty, the first for five years.
“It all started when I suddenly lost my bank job,” he said. “Everything got shattered. I tried my best to look for other job options but nothing worked out. Meanwhile, our visas expired. I didn’t want to leave and so kept trying.
“During all this struggle, I had to go to jail for three months for non-payment of rent. I have yet to settle all my debt, which piled up during these years.”
Uddin said that his children had suffered the most as a result of the family living in the country illegally.
“I have five daughters,” he said. “The eldest is only 6 and the youngest is just over a year old now. I cannot send my children to school. They cannot get proper health checks, food and other basic necessities of life.
“This is the first time I will have been parted from my family. I am sad yet I am happy because they can start a new life soon. I am also trying to get my debts settled so that I can apply for my amnesty and join my family very soon.”

Moiz Uddin with his children. (Photo courtesy: Moiz Uddin)

The Pakistan Association Dubai (PAD) advised and helped Uddin to apply for the government amnesty scheme.
“The scheme benefits families like his who are stuck in an unfortunate situation and have no money to get out of it,” said Shahid Ul Islam, a member of the association’s legal department. “Hundreds of families are approaching us. In most cases, the only breadwinner lost their job or business, as a result of which the family has not been able to renew their visas.”
Rizwan Fancy, who also works for PAD, thanked the UAE government for offering the amnesty.
“This is the best gift of the Year of Zayed (the 100th anniversary of the birth in 1918 of the UAE’s founding father, Sheikh Zayed),” he said. “The UAE has been always been the land of compassion and peace. All those who have already suffered a lot for not having proper legal documents and lack of funds should utilize this historic opportunity.”
PAD can help any Pakistani expat to apply. It provides legal sessions twice every week, during which it provides information about the amnesty and assistance with applying. Uddin said the process was simple and quick.
“The staff are very kind and supportive,” he added. “One should not feel hesitant or harassed. The UAE government is helping us to come out of the crisis; hence we should avail of this golden opportunity.”
The three-month visa amnesty program began on August 1. It is available to all foreigners who are living in the country illegally and being fined daily for overstaying their permits. Centers have been set up around the country to process applications, with consular officials from many countries on hand to help with passport problems and any other issues.
It is expected that thousands of people, in particular laborers from countries such as Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Nepal and the Philippines, will benefit from the scheme.
Foreigners who overstay their visas are fined between 25 and 100 dirhams a day ($7 to $27), depending on the type of visa, and are not allowed to leave the country until all fines are paid in full. As they quickly mount up over the months and years, the prospect of payment grows ever more slim. Under the amnesty, all fines for overstaying a visa are forgiven and people with no other debts or legal issues can leave the country. There are also free to return to the UAE if they obtain a new visa, with no preconditions.
The latest general amnesty is the fifth since 1996 and the first since 2013, when more than 60,000 people took advantage of the opportunity.
Maj. Gen. Mohammed Ahmed Al-Marri, director general of the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs in Dubai, said a chance like this for people to solve their problems is too good to miss.
“These are not criminals,” he said. “We are here to support and help these people to start over again and start working.”
Temporary six-month visas are available for people who want to remain in the country legally and look for work. In addition, citizens of war-torn countries such as Syria and Yemen qualify for a one-year residence visa without restrictions.
“It’s a gift from the government of the UAE as a humanitarian gesture,” Al-Marri said.