Abu Dhabi: Envoys of labour-exporting countries to the UAE have praised the two-month amnesty scheme granted to illegal residents.
Major General Nasser Awadi Al Menhali, Assistant Undersecretary for Naturalisation, Residency and Ports Affairs, announced the amnesty on Tuesday detailing how illegal residents will be allowed to leave the UAE without penalty or being able to regularise their visas.
The senior official told a news conference: “Illegal residents who overstayed their visas can visit residency departments across the UAE to obtain outpasses and leave the country without penalties, or regularise their visas, after payment of fines between December 4 and February 3.”
Al Menhali encouraged illegal residents to come forward and take advantage of the scheme — a call that has now been echoed by envoys to the UAE.
Indian ambassador to the UAE M.K. Lokesh told Gulf News: “We thank the government of the UAE in helping the workers.”
He asked Indian workers, who have been staying illegally in the country, to come forward to take advantage of this opportunity.
He said: “The embassy will make all necessary arrangements to make the workers aware of the procedures of amnesty and receive their applications for outpasses.”
During the past amnesty periods, the Indian embassy in Abu Dhabi and the consulate in Dubai made arrangements, in cooperation with Indian community organisations, to help illegal workers, with hundreds of volunteers from the community used to help process their applications.
Jamil Khan, Pakistan ambassador to UAE, called the amnesty “another demonstration of attaching value to the Human rights in UAE”.
“The Pakistani embassy and consulate are ready to issue outpasses to the Pakistani community.” he said.
Khan also encouraged all affected Pakistanis to take the opportunity as a benefit to them.
He said: “The Pakistani community are always advised to respect the laws of the UAE, including immigration laws.”
Bangladesh ambassador Mohammad Nazmul Quaunine also urged Bangladeshis in the UAE to take advantage of the amnesty and come to the embassy in Abu Dhabi or Dubai to collect outpasses, if they do not have a passport, so they can travel back to Bangladesh.
Quaunine described the amnesty as “an advantage” and a “positive step” for those who do not have a legal status in the UAE.
“We’re prepared to help Bangladesh citizens travel back by arranging their travel documents. For those who find a new job, we can issue a passport,” he said.
Grace Princesa, Philippine ambassador to the UAE, also welcomed the amnesty scheme, saying the missions of the Philippines in the country “will offer citizens with all legal documents needed to leave the country.”
Sarath Wijesinghe, the Sri Lankan ambassador to the UAE, also called the amnesty a good gesture on the part of the UAE government, adding: “I thank the UAE for this humanitarian gesture.”
As many as 342,000 illegal immigrants took advantage of the last amnesty declared in 2007.
Around 300,000 illegal immigrants left the country under the second amnesty which ran between January and April, 2002.
In 1996, about 200,000 illegal residents left the country under a six-month long amnesty.
Al Menhali stressed on Tuesday that this amnesty, approved by the Cabinet of Ministers in April, covers only those who overstayed their visit or resident visas, but not infiltrators, who he said will be treated like criminals.
He encouraged illegal residents to come forward and take advantage of the amnesty as soon as possible and not to wait for the deadline or miss it, “because there will be no extension or exception whatsoever of the amnesty scheme”.