Skilled illegal expats not worried about future

ABU DHABI - Skilled expatriate workers who had been living in the UAE illegally and have either already left the country or will be leaving under the government's amnesty are not much worried about their future because of new job opportunities coming up in Turkey, Cyprus and Korea, which are likely to absorb at least 25 to 30 per cent of them.

By Haseeb Haider

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Published: Sat 31 May 2003, 9:09 PM

Last updated: Wed 1 Apr 2015, 11:09 PM

About 40,000 workers of various nationalities left the country, availing themselves of the first amnesty deadline of April 30 while another 3,000 to 4,000 went home taking advantage of the one-month extension.

However, their departure has not created any gap in the local labour market or on the construction scene. Recently announced mega construction projects, which may require more skilled workers, may take another five to eight months to come to the ground-breaking stage.

A significant portion of amnesty seekers had been recruited by construction industry and others by small businesses as helpers, salesmen, cleaners, etc. Some of them had been hired by individuals for domestic jobs like maids, drivers and gardeners.

Many got out of job on different reasons - some were free to take up other jobs since their employers had closed their business and some got sacked. In most of the cases, since the sponsor had to pay a high fee of Dh5,850 per visa along with a furnishing of bank guarantee of Dh3,000 for visa renewal, many employers did not bother to follow rules relating to domestic servants, eventually pushing them towards the category of 'illegal' in the eyes of law.

About 25 to 30 per cent amnesty seekers had been engaged in construction industry and had to escape their original employers because they did not pay their wages and other benefits regularly. So, these workers had to find new jobs.

The number of illegal immigrants leaving the country would have been much higher but for those sponsors who got visas of their employees renewed, because they did not want to lose hard working people.

The skilled workers who opted to leave the country had at least six months ban on their entering the UAE. But, for most of them, the opportunities emerging in Turkey and Korea have brightened their hopes for a better placement.

Turkey has launched a mega tunnel project to provide shelter to its people in the event of a bio-chemical attack. This project will require skilled construction labour force and the UAE amnesty seekers may be the best choice for project managers - cheap yet highly skilled.

The project, coming online in the third quarter of this year, is likely to create 1,800 to 2,200 jobs.

Then there are construction projects coming up in Cyprus. Korea's booming ship-building industry is also interested in hiring cheap labour with their rich experience in the UAE. An executive working for a recruiting agency who hired some of these people said that at least 1,200 to 1,500 welders, electricians, carpenters, etc would get suitable placements there.

He said that his country had an enormous capacity to absorb labourers. Already hundreds of workers have got jobs there.

Interestingly, not any major recruitment is taking place in the UAE's construction industry which suggests stability in the industry's requirements for workers, especially after thousands of illegal workers have left the country.

Human Resources experts believe that the total strength of local construction industry ranges between 125,000 and 150,000.

Some workers leaving the country told this reporter that they would go back home and take care of their agricultural land.

While a good number of them said they would start small businesses which they earlier could not do for lack of finances.

There were some who said they would certainly come back after spending some time with their families because they hoped they might be able to get jobs here with the coming up of big construction projects.

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