Missions in capital unhappy over poor response

ABU DHABI - As the general amnesty announced by the UAE government for expatriates living in the country illegally ends today, the response did not seem to have measured up to initial expectations. The picture remained somewhat unclear, with some Asian embassies admitting that several applications were pending with the immigration authorities.

By Anupama V. Chand And N. Srinivasan

Published: Wed 30 Apr 2003, 12:32 PM

Last updated: Wed 1 Apr 2015, 10:06 PM

The Sri Lankan Embassy said that the response was poor, with only 1,200 outpasses issued from Abu Dhabi, and a further 1,700 people availing themselves of the amnesty from the consulate general in Dubai.

"At the outset, we hoped that at least 6,000 to 8,000 people would benefit from the four-month amnesty, but unfortunately, even with the 15 to 20 cases still pending with the immigration authorities, there has been a lukewarm response. We had hoped for more people to come forward and legalise their status," said the minister in-charge of amnesty affairs at the embassy. He ruled out any requests for an extension of the amnesty deadline, saying that there were "really no grounds to do so, after the poor showing".

According to Mahfud Islam Chowdhury, second secretary at the Bangladesh Embassy, approximately 5,256 amnesty seekers had collected their outpasses from the mission so far, with a further 2,500 passports of defaulters having been received from the immigration authorities, remaining unclaimed. He pointed out that over 90 per cent of the beneficiaries were unskilled Bangladeshi workers.

Mario Cabral, attache in-charge of the amnesty at the Philippines Embassy in the capital, said that from January 4 till yesterday, 1,350 travel documents had been issued, in lieu of expired or lost passports, with a further 1,716 outpasses actually being granted. He noted that about 30 children, who did not have proper documentation or passports, were also given outpasses to allow them to accompany their guardians out of the country.

Indonesian charge d'affaires Muhammed Soleh said that a little over 450 overstaying Indonesians had benefited from the amnesty so far, with about 500 more awaiting clearance from the Immigration authorities to exit the country before this evening. Pointing out that most of those who had used the amnesty were from the unskilled and domestic sector of Indonesian workers, from among the nearly 40,000 Indonesian expatriates in the UAE.

While appealing to all its nationals residing illegally in the country to come forward to benefit from the scheme, a spokesman for the Pakistan Embassy said that the mission had issued outpasses to 2,000 people residing in Abu Dhabi and Al Ain, since the scheme was introduced on January 1.

A source at the Indian Embassy said that travel documents or emergency certificates had been issued to 3,700 amnesty seekers who had no passports. There were another 2,200 applicants who collected their passports that were lying at the embassy.

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