Abu Dhabi: After 42 years in the UAE, a 62-year-old Pakistani man is among hundreds of illegal immigrants taking part in the country’s amnesty programme.
Noor Mohammad spoke of his regret that he overstayed for 10 months after his visa expired, meaning his last days spent in the UAE were as an illegal.
Lining up at the amnesty centre in Abu Dhabi on the first day of the amnesty on Tuesday, Mohammad told Gulf News: “Although I overstayed for a few months after the expiry of my visa, I was very upset because I never wanted to be an illegal in a country where I spent most of my life.”
Thousands of illegal immigrants are expected to take advantage of the UAE’s visa amnesty in the coming weeks.
Authorities announced the 60-day programme last month which allows visa violators to come forward and either regularise their visas or leave the country without penalty.
Overstaying fees are around Dh25 per day, after the expiry of a residence visa.
Mohammad, a technician, was one among the dozens of illegal residents who turned up at the Emirates ID centre at Mussaffah in the capital on Tuesday.
He originally came to the country in 1970, looking for work.
His wife joined him eight years later and their four children were brought up here.
He was involved in a court case about a Dh140,000 personal bank loan which he claims caused him to overstay.
Mohammad said: “I took the loan to build a huge house in my native village in the Peshawar region. But that house was destroyed in a war between Taliban and Pakistan Government forces two years ago.”
Mohammad planned to return to Pakistan and live in the home when he reached retirement age, and no longer eligible to stay in the UAE without the sponsorship of an employer.
Last year, when he retired from his job at a public sector company, he was unable to go home due to the bank loan court case.
He said: “Finally the case was over when I settled the loan dues with my end of service benefit.
“I am grateful to the UAE Government for allowing people like me to leave the country without paying any fines for overstaying,” Mohammad said.
He said his experience is a lesson to others.
“One has to be careful about financial planning,” he said.
Mohammad, who plans to go home and live in Pakistan once his amnesty application is processed, added: “It was a happy and nice life but life twists and turns suddenly.”
The centre Mohammad attended at Mussaffah is open from 8am to 8pm.
Illegal residents, who have a passport and flight ticket, can directly approach the immigration centres to leave the country.