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1-year UAE visa a miracle for us: Syrian refugees

Sarwat Nasir/Dubai
Filed on June 20, 2018 | Last updated on June 20, 2018 at 06.20 am
Syrian refugees receive water and food packets after arriving in Jordan. The UAE Cabinet announced on Monday that nationals of countries struck with war or natural disasters will be granted a one-year visa despite their current legal status.
Syrian refugees receive water and food packets after arriving in Jordan. The UAE Cabinet announced on Monday that nationals of countries struck with war or natural disasters will be granted a one-year visa despite their current legal status.

This decision comes ahead of the World Refugee Day.


People crammed inside a small room, unable to rent a house, car or obtain a driver's licence, getting treatment at a hospital, children not going to school, and closed bank accounts - these are the tragic repercussions many Syrian residents have to face for living illegally in the UAE.

These consequences are not limited to just Syrians, but, also any resident who has an illegal status. A valid Emirates ID and visa page is required for all important legal work in the country.

Unfortunately, some residents who escaped war in Syria and took refuge in the UAE have overstayed on their visit visas or have failed to renew their residency visas. Because of their illegal status, they have become trapped due to massive fines for being illegal, nor can they return to the volatile situation in Syria.

These refugees had lost all hope - until this Monday. Thanks to the kind-hearted gesture by the UAE government, nationals of countries struck with war or natural disasters will be granted a one-year visa despite their current legal status and no penalties will be enforced. This decision comes ahead of the World Refugee Day today.

Syrian refugees, Ashraf, 12, and Hassan Waleed, 4, are two youngsters who managed to escape with their parents when Daesh took over their home three years ago. They have been staying in the UAE illegally for nearly six months and are not going to school.

"Immigration has become strict everywhere around the world because of the terror and fear that has been created by the terrorists. And if you start living illegally in any country, you are almost as same as a criminal - you have to hide, you can't open a bank account, you can't rent a car, my kids can't go to school. Everything stops," Ashraf and Hassan's father, Waleed Al Sharif said.

Al Sharif is legal in the country. However, his new job did not allow him to sponsor his children's visa - leaving them no choice but to stay here illegally.

Gaining a legal status before the school year starts will help normalise their lives, according to Al Sharif.

"I can sacrifice and live in a small house, walk wherever I need to, instead of spending money on a car. But as a parent, seeing my children not going to school, is very difficult. I want them to have an education," he said.

Also living illegally in the country is 19-year-old Ahmed Yasir Hussain, who moved to the UAE nearly six years ago. His family was displaced within Syria after their home was destroyed. They managed to move to the UAE and restart their lives, though, getting back to normal has been a struggle for them.

Hussain's siblings and parents have a valid residency visa. However, his visa expired last year, which also created problems for him to secure a job as employers ask for a valid status in order to transfer visas. A generous employer can pay the fines caused by an illegal status of the potential employee if he wishes, however, this is usually an unlikely occurrence.

Hussain's dream is to get admission into a university and get a degree so he can start a career. Though, that is not possible until he fixes his legal status and saves up for his tuition fees.

"The one-year visa is a miracle for us. I would like to thank the government because I think I will be able to get a job once I am legal. After that, I can go to university. I am the eldest son in our house. If I fix my life, then I can help my father and my siblings," Hussain said.

Several Syrians in the UAE, who are unable to pay for a residency visa, also come to the country on a visit visa and continuously extend it in order to stay here.

This is the case with Hail Hourini and his wife as they have been extending their UAE visit visa for the past one year and three months. They dreamed of retiring in their own country which they say they love. However, they no longer have a house to return to as it's been destroyed.

The new resolution says that the one year visa will be granted to those who have escaped war despite of their current legal status.

Another Syrian expat in the UAE, Hassan Ibrahim, has a 12-year-old son that is living in a refugee camp in Germany since 2016. Even though the new resolution may not apply to his son, Ibrahim hopes he will be able to bring his son to live with him and the rest of his siblings soon. Ibrahim, his wife and three children have valid UAE residency visas.

The one-year visa will help jump-start many lives in the UAE, particularly those who have already lost their homes because of war or natural disasters. These refugees love their country and would want to return to their homeland, unfortunately, they have lost their lands and homes they grew up in and once cherished.

This is their time to start over and rebuild their lives.

sarwat@khaleejtimes.com





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