UAE amnesty-seeker sells bags to clear Dh60,000 rent
Sharjah - She hardly earns Dh1,000 by selling bags and other novelty items.
Unlike many amnesty-seekers in the UAE who are struggling to make ends meet, this 55-year-old single Indian mother-of-two has a unique skill that has helped her survive some very turbulent times.
Originally from the southern Indian city of Bangalore, Kareemunnisa Hussain has been living in Sharjah for 14 years. Though she initially arrived at a thriving business run by her now estranged husband, a few financial misdemeanours, including a few bounced cheque cases, resulted in his deportation from the UAE
Though she and her children Amir and Sarah*, aged 17 and 20 respectively, have been living undocumented in Sharjah since March 2014, Kareemunnisa refused to beg for alms to make ends meet.
Instead, she put her skills as a handicraft maker to good use. Though she began making these bags as a hobby, the sale of these novelty items under the brand name 'Heritage Caravan' helps pay for her family's sustenance in Sharjah.
"I began making bags, jewellery, tunics, and clutches to sell them at flea markets in Dubai. We paid for our living expenses by selling these things. Sometimes, when tourists were impressed with our designs, I would get bulk orders and make about Dh1,500 or so. I could pay for food and other expenses with this money," she explained. All products are handmade and Kareemunnisa uses local material for her crafts.
"We could never promote the handicrafts business because my kids and I are living in constant fear of getting caught for living illegally. Finally, when the UAE amnesty programme was launched in August, it was a ray of hope for us," she explained.
Unfortunately, when the mother applied for amnesty in August, immigration authorities granted pardon only to her two kids and rejected her petition. Unknown to the mother, a case was registered against her for non-payment of three-year-rent amounting to Dh60,000 at Sharjah Municipality.
Matters go from bad to worse
"Our bad times began in 2011. My husband Asghar Hussain's business fell apart and because of several financial cases we lost, he was deported." she explained. After her husband left, Kareemunnisa did not see a point in returning to India. "My children got here when they were very small. There is nothing for them in India" she added.
Furthermore, her kids had to abandon their education two years ago. "The rental dispute came as a shock to me. We used to live in a flat in Rolla, and we had no means to pay rent for three years. We got an eviction notice from the Municipality and we shifted to a sharing apartment in the Maysaloon area," she added. The family continues to live there.
Ever since she received the rejection notice, she has been running from pillar to post trying to clear the outstanding rent. "I can't afford the amount. We make hardly Dh1,000 to Dh2,000 by selling novelty items. I've been begging, going to different charities - but no help has come through so far," said a tearful Kareemunnisa.
The aged mother wants to continue to live a life of dignity by selling these products in the UAE. "When we are living illegally, we can't use our resources creatively to market our products. I know they are good, people show a lot of interest in the flea markets. But I am living in constant fear," she added.
*name changed to protect the identity