Last-minute rush as amnesty ends

ABU DHABI & DUBAI — The unprecedented high level of response across the country’s seven emirates is the real measure of the success of the UAE Government’s three-month general amnesty for illegal workers that ends today.

By Ahmed Abdul Aziz And Mary Nammour

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Published: Sun 2 Sep 2007, 8:45 AM

Last updated: Sun 5 Apr 2015, 4:59 AM

The government’s humanitarian gesture, the third of its kind, came as a big relief to thousands of ordinary workers and employees, who more by default rather than design, were residing illegally in the UAE. While many such workers had to return home in order to avoid legal action against them after the expiry of the amnesty period, a large number of them were also able to regularise their employment and residency status permitting them to continue to work and stay in the UAE.

Dubai beneficiaries

In Dubai alone, as many as 184,873 people, from ordinary construction workers to housemaids to tinkers and tailors and small grocery shop workers, took advantage of the amnesty, according to Dubai Naturalisation and Residency Department (DNRD) sources. In a highly commendable effort to facilitate the whole process, DNRD officials, supported by various other government departments and diplomatic missions, volunteers, social organisations and others worked overtime to ensure the success of the government’s amnesty scheme.

While workers from the subcontinent accounted for the largest number of amnesty applicants, given the much larger proportion of their expatriate population here in the emirates, amnesty seekers included many many other nationalities as well.

With the amnesty deadline expiring today, DNRD’s Follow-up and Investigation Section (FIS) in Jumeirah witnessed a huge last-minute rush of illegals yesterday.

The amnesty seekers at this centre were mostly women who had already approached FIS on Thursday but could not get all the formalities completed the same day. Consequently, they had to approach the section again yesterday to get their exit passes.

The processing of applications was smooth as the FIS staff were extra alert to handle the expected rush.

Most of the female amnesty seekers were ‘absconding’ housemaids. Sabla, a pretty 23-year-old Ethiopian, came to work as a housemaid in Sharjah in 2004. “I was working for an Omani family. In September last year, I ran away to work for an Iraqi family because I was earning a pittance and I was mistreated.

“I was not allowed to talk to my family. I used to get only two hours’ sleep after taking care of all the household chores including cleaning, cooking and baby-sitting,” said Sabla who got one-year entry ban on her passport.

An Eritrean woman, who came on visit visa in 2002 and did not renew the visa, had her eyes scanned and her passport stamped also with a similar one-year ban.

Rose, a Filipina housemaid, absconded from her local sponsor to work for another local family. “I used to work in Al Ghusais. If I don’t get a ban I hope to be able to return to Dubai soon,” she said optimistically.

Emiyou, a Filipina housemaid, looked very worried as she could not manage to get a No-Objection Certificate from her original sponsor.

“I was brought into UAE by a housemaid recruitment agency. However, I was sponsored by a local lady but worked instead for a Sudanese one. I want to ask for a release visa from my original sponsor but cannot because neither of us speaks the other’s language.

“Pending the NOC, her residence visa which is valid till June 3, 2008, was cancelled.”

As many as 184,873 amnesty applications were processed in Dubai between June 2 and August 31. This was announced yesterday by Dubai Naturalization and Residency Department (DNRD) Director Brigadier Mohammed Ahmed Al Marri.

“Until August 31, DNRD had issued 121,605 outpasses and helped regularise the status of 63,268 illegal workers,” he said.

DNRD, which operated its main branch in Jumeirah as well as its peripheral facilities across the emirate, had also set up temporary centres to receive and process the maximum number of applications six days a week and 24 hours a day.

Brig Al Marri commended the staff members at the various facilities of the department for their hard work during the amnesty period and forgoing their summer vacations in order to assist in this nationwide campaign.

The DNRD director also expressed his appreciation for the cooperation and support given by the diplomatic missions of various countries.

He also expressed his gratitude to the Dubai Police, Dubai Municipality and Dubai Electricity and Water Authority for their support which facilitated the process of receiving and processing amnesty applications.

Meanwhile, in the capital, the Abu Dhabi-based Al Gaber Contracting Company yesterday submitted applications for 500 workers seeking a regularisation of their status, according to sources at the Ministry of Labour (MoL).

Also, around 30 amnesty seekers visited the MoL yesterday requesting a cancellation of their labour cards so that they could leave the country.

Meanwhile, the MoL Director of Labour Affairs, Mohammad Al Zaabi, stated that the amnesty service centre will continue to provide assistance to illegals seeking to benefit from the amnesty.

“We will work until 6.00 pm on Sunday (today) because it is the last day of the amnesty period. We may even continue to work for extended hours if required,” added Al Zaabi.

Also, other departments in the MoL yesterday received applications from the companies’ PROs and the Work Permits Department approved as many as 850 applications for new work permits.

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