Pakistan-based agency loses licence over illegal UAE hiring
Dubai - Around 25 young Pakistanis were promised lucrative jobs as security guards in Dubai by unregistered agents.
Published: Wed 29 May 2019, 7:15 PM
Last updated: Sat 1 Jun 2019, 9:43 AM
Last week, the operational licence of a Peshawar-based overseas recruitment agent was cancelled in Pakistan after reports surfaced of illegal hiring of security guards in Dubai, some of whom were briefly deputed to work in the emirate's malls.
A notice was issued by the Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Overseas Pakistanis and Human Resource Development, Sayed Zulfiqar Bukhari, in this regard. The notice read that the hiring was done without the permission of the Directorate General Bureau of Immigration and Overseas Employment in Pakistan. A website titled www.gulfvisajobs.com was subsequently blocked by Pakistan's regulatory authority.
The notice also mentioned that the company had failed to provide security guards with the promised jobs, housing and salaries.
However, this is just the tip of the iceberg.
Around 25 young Pakistanis were promised lucrative jobs as security guards in Dubai by unregistered agents in Pakistan in what is believed to be a 'web of lies, fake promises and a money extortion racket' that starts in Pakistan and ends in Dubai.
Upon learning of the plight of a group of victims, Pakistan's Consulate in Dubai has provided them with plane tickets and a few of them have already flown home.
Each of the young men had been asked to pay Rs400,000 (approximately Dh9,600) in advance to cover the visa costs and airfares in return for a job as security guards.
Many of those looking for jobs in the Gulf raise the money either by selling off jewellery, livestock, pieces of land or taking out a loan, hoping to pay off the debts once they start receiving the Dh3,500 that was promised as salary.
Shah Faisal, a 21-year-old from Charsadda, near Peshawar, initially wanted to travel to Hungary, but he was not able to get a permit.
"I did not want to come to Dubai but then the agent - someone who knew someone - promised a lot and I changed my mind," Faisal tells Khaleej Times.
The travel documents were made through the Overseas Employment Promoter in Peshawar where a 'protector' was stamped on an urgent basis so that a UAE visa could be applied for. Here, he says, agents found ways to prepare fake documents.
The process took up to four to five months. When the visa finally came through, names were changed and instead of a company sponsoring him, it was an individual.
"I wanted my money back, but the agent would not hear anything. He told me to report to the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) or use any other means. He was confident that nothing would disrupt his business," says Faisal, narrating the start of his woes.
More pressure from Faisal forced the agent to issue a cheque for his money, which eventually bounced.
"In the end, the family said that since the money has been spent, it is better to go and work. I thought once the salary started coming through, I would be able to pay off everything," he adds.
Faisal arrived in Dubai on January 18, leaving Pakistan for the first time ever. As expected, there was no one to receive him at the airport nor was there any job waiting for him. He also got to know that there were many others like him who were duped.
Constantly chasing the agents in Dubai got him and the other boys space in a number of apartments for a few months.
On many days, they had nothing to eat, lived in flats without water and power, and on other nights, slept in the parks.
On other days, they would go to sleep in apartments when other tenants would leave for work in the morning during Ramadan.
"It was a terrible time. We worked without visas for some days and got a little money for it, and that's how we had food," says Faisal, who was studying a pre-medical course before he decided to come to UAE.
Every day, the agent promised he would take them to work. "He said we would work in a house where 12 people were needed to monitor the CCTV cameras," says Faisal. He recently found out that his visa had been cancelled on April 28 without his knowledge.
Shehroz Ahmed, 22, from Haripur has a similar story to tell. "I lost my father and my elder brother was too ill, so I had to come to Dubai," says Shehroz, who had to leave his bachelor of science programme for a fake job.
Paying the agent in Lahore around Dh10,000, he arrived in Dubai on September 24 last year. He again waited at the airport endlessly and finally made his way to someone he knew.
"I kept chasing the agent here and he asked for Dh8,000 more."
Shehroz was then given odd jobs, including a 28-hour job at a mall, an under-construction hospital, a gym - all without a legal contract or employment visa.
He was paid half the amount promised to him on some months and unpaid on others. He was staying in a rented room with 15 other people who had come to the Dubai in a similar way. While some had visas, many others didn't.
"I am just so exhausted and I want to go back home," he pleads, asking for someone to pay his overstaying fines of Dh4,000.
"The agents basically exploit people like us and bring us to a point where we stop chasing them for the money," says Faisal, adding that the agents themselves make good sums since they bring groups of people each month.
"We want the agents to be arrested so that the same kind of fraud cannot be repeated with others," says Shehroz.
This scam has to be stopped from Pakistan, says consul-general
"Pakistan's immigration policy and rules need to be tightened so that similar cases do not happen in the future," said Ahmed Amjad Ali, Pakistan's Consul-General to Dubai.
The consulate provided tickets to a stranded group and a few of them have already gone back to Pakistan. The consulate also contacted the agents who returned the passports and also helped get their visas cancelled, with community support.
"We have convinced six of them to return, while others are still hopeful that the agents will get them the promised jobs," he said. "We have tried to explain to them and warned them about working in the UAE illegally but they've spent so much money and are awaiting some miracle.
"Some of them are here on visit visas and a few of them had been given employment visas," he told Khaleej Times.
"This kind of recruitment has to be stopped from Pakistan," he stressed. "The most we can do from here is provide them with legal documents and return tickets."
The fake visa and recruitment scam network has deep roots in Pakistan. "These young men have reported agents in Peshawar, Lahore, Karachi.there are definitely more, and we need a major crackdown and action from authorities in Pakistan," added Ahmed.
The consulate has prepared a report and sent it to the Ministry of Overseas Pakistanis, as well as the Directorate General Bureau of Immigration and Overseas Employment in Pakistan, for action.
Those returning have also been given letters for the DG Bureau and FIA so that they can be helped once back. "These letters will also help them get their money back," said the consul-general.
The consulate will also put up notices on its social media pages to raise awareness on the issue.
FROM PAKISTAN TO DUBAI: FAKE JOB MODUS OPERANDI EXPLAINED
>Men were promised jobs as security guards in Dubai, with a Dh3,500 monthly salary
>They were asked to pay Rs400,000 (around Dh9,600) in advance to cover visa costs and airfare
>Travel documents were made through the Overseas Employment Promoter in Peshawar, Pakistan
>A 'protector' was stamped on the documents so that a UAE visa could be applied for
> Agents prepare fake documents
>The process takes four to five months
>Upon receiving the visa, victims realise that names were changed and instead of a company, an individual was indicated as the sponsor
>When they arrive in Dubai, no one receives them at the airport and no job is waiting for them
>Some are given 'odd jobs' that require them to work for 28 hours straight - without any legal documents and, sometimes, without pay