Ajman: A number of expat families continue living illegally in Ajman despite a recent UAE amnesty for immigration violators to leave the country, Gulf News has learnt.
Tens of thousands of illegal residents left under the two-month amnesty without fines or legal action between last December and February this year.
But Gulf News met several large families who have apparently stayed here illegally for decades. They said they recently changed their residences fearing a crackdown after the amnesty.
Many of them are Pakistani, claiming they had moved to the UAE at a time when residence visas were not required to live here.
A number of them said they were born here and have never set foot in Pakistan.
The families appeared to be living hand to mouth, unable to work or attend school for want of valid documents like passports and UAE visas.
Some are orphans and were too young to remember when they arrived here — and what went wrong.
“I don’t know when my father came to the UAE,” said 18-year-old Khalid, born into “a family of illegals”.
“We’re Pakistani but my father never issued passports for his children.”
Khalid has five brothers and sisters, all born here. His father died two years ago and never held a proper job, he said.
“My brothers and sisters are aged between 16 and three. We have no passport or birth certificate and we never attended school because we’re illegal residents,” he added.
Khalid’s younger sister is a person with special needs, unable to talk or walk since birth.
“We used to get Dh1,000 monthly from charity organisations but this stopped six months ago because they ask us for a residency visa in order to give financial support.
“My mother and other family members are staying in our relatives’ house in order to avoid being arrested for being illegal.”
Majid, 16, is another illegal resident from Pakistan.
“We are seven people living in a house, including my mother, brother, and his wife and children,” Majid said.
He added that his father died three years ago and his parents never held a residence visa.
“My elder brother got married to a girl who also has no legal residency and they have two children who have no passports or birth certificates.
“I don’t know how to sort out my problems, I want to work and have a proper life but I don’t know where to start.”
Meanwhile, a mother of 12 said she and her children were born in the UAE, but have been staying here illegally.
“My parents came from Pakistan many years ago and I was born here. I got married and have 12 children but I never got legal residency here,” said Noor Zaman, 45.
“My husband was deported a year ago for staying illegally here. A relative who works here is supporting us now. I live with my cousin — a mother of ten — in a small old house with just three rooms.
“My children have no passports and so they never attended school as they have no residency visa.”
Her cousin, Amar, said Noor Zaman’s children were born in Ajman, at Khalifa Hospital and GMC Hospital.
Noor Zaman said she was married at an Ajman court despite being an illegal.
“I’ve never been to my home country, not even once,” she said.
Another Pakistani family living on the wrong side of UAE residency rules – for 30 years – is Eisa Khalifa and his nine siblings.
“I’m 20 years old and I still have no passport or birth certificate,” Eisa said.
“My father was an illegal resident, he died many years ago. My sister got married to a man who doesn’t have legal documents here. My whole family never had residency visas.”
Jannat, a mother of seven, is another long-time Pakistani resident of the UAE. She has been living here for over 25 years and her children were born here.
But none of them have passports or visas.
Jannat sews clothes to support her family. “My husband does odd jobs also to support us. We’ve been illegal residents ever since we entered this country,” she said.
“My children have never been in school. Many people in my neighbourhood are living here illegally.”
Her son, Mohammad, said he tried to apply for the amnesty but claims he was told the family would be deported unless they paid fines for overstaying.
Meanwhile, Mohammad Ebrahim, also Pakistani, said his father came to the UAE in 1967. As a child, he remembers going to school.
“We are seven brothers and sisters. We used to have a legal residency visa 25 years ago,” he said. They have passports but he claims they haven’t been able to renew their visas.
“We cannot afford it, my father’s jobless. He has been arrested several times for being an illegal.
“Police used to let me go because I have no criminal record.”
There are many other Asians in a similar situation.
Hassan, 23, is a Bangladeshi whose father died in 2009.
He said: “We have no legal resident visa. We are five brothers and three sisters who got married despite the fact that we are illegal residents here.
“I have no clue what to do. My mother’s sick and I can’t get a job.”