Dubai: Major General Mohammad Ahmad Al Merri, Director-General of the General Department for Residency and Foreigners' Affairs in Dubai (GDRFA), a veteran police officer, has been at the forefront of bringing pathbreaking changes at the GDRFA.
Under his guidance the department has undergone a switch to comprehensive online services, opened more offices, made significant changes in the functioning and opened his door wide to the public for making suggestions, comments, complaints or to get their issues sorted out at the department.
Visitors flock to Dubai in huge numbers and this would mean a lot of work for the department and Major General Al Merri is playing a key role in streamlining the flow of visitors to work, study, stay or visit as tourists.
Maj Gen Al Merri ensures that his department remains committed to offering the best services to the public. Customer satisfaction remains one of the top priorities for him and his staff.
He said his key concerns are to keep the UAE as one of the safest countries in the world, and Dubai to maintain its position as a favoured destination for tourists. To achieve that the issue of illegal immigrants needs to be tackled, he said adding that labour rights also top his agenda.
In an exclusive interview with Gulf News, Maj Gen Al Merri said the residency department is not a police department and illegal immigrants can visit the department any time to get their problems sorted out.
"Illegal immigrants are not criminals and we can help them go back home or to amend their situation in the country in accordance with the laws of the Ministry of Interior." "I encourage those who overstay or those who are staying illegally to come to us and we will help them legalise their situation or go back home," he said.
Employing illegal immigrants could affect the security and safety of the country and the residents, he said.
Video: A day at the Department of Residency and Foreigners Affairs in Dubai
GNTV goes behind the scenes at the Department of Residency and Foreigners Affairs in Dubai and find out how staff behind the counters cope with the growing numbers applicants.
"Protecting the rights of residents is of high importance to the UAE government in order to ensure a secure, safe and sound life to everybody."
Maj Gen Al Merri, who is the chairman of the Permanent Committee for Labour Affairs, said that protecting the rights of workers cannot be compromised in any way.
"Domestic helpers and labourers came from their countries to work here and they should be treated fairly and all their rights must be preserved and protected by us."
"We know that some companies have not been paying their workers' salaries or delaying it, which is unacceptable. It is an unforgivable act," he said.
"The labour committee represents all workers and the panel was set up only to protect workers' rights," he said.
"We have measures in place to guarantee workers' rights and the labour affairs' teams are increasing inspections of construction sites to ensure that workers are always treated properly."
He said with the onset of summer, the committee will ensure that no labourer will be working during the midday break.
"Companies will face severe punishment if they violate the midday break during summer."
Several departments are working together to offer workers a healthy work environment, he said.
"We have the Wage Protection System, which channels workers' salaries through banks. We also look after the labourers' problems and we try to solve them. Those workers participated in the development of our country and we have to protect their rights," Maj Gen Al Merri said.
He said there are centres for the committee in Jebel Ali, Al Muhaisna and Al Quoz.
He said Shaikh Hamdan Bin Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Dubai Crown Prince and Chairman of the Dubai Executive Council, urged the labour committee to strive to ensure the protection of workers' rights in Dubai.
"The committee will consider the complaints of workers and take appropriate action, and give direction for follow-up measures to be taken by the concerned government bodies in the emirate against any violation of labour rights, he said.
"We are working on educating and informing workers and employers about their rights and dues, and to develop mechanisms for implementation of the rules," he added.
Maj Gen Al Merri, also spoke about tourism sector in Dubai and in the country which he describes as "booming and blooming".
"Tourists who wish to visit Dubai are on the increase. The number of tourist visas is on the increase and the demand for visas upon arrival for specific nationalities is on the rise," he said.
Dubai is attracting a lot of tourists each year. He said His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, always urges us to attain excellence and follow best practices.
"Our mission is to excel in our field," he said adding: "In order to achieve our aim and mission, we focus on our customers and how to offer best services to them".
Maj Gen Al Merri said his department is offering a variety of electronic services that allows companies to complete related residency transactions from their offices. This online system is available 24 hours, seven days a week and helps reduce the time needed to complete the procedures with less paperwork.
"We have Amer unit that offers different kinds of services for the public round the clock."
He said the department introduced the self-service kiosk, available in six locations in Dubai that enables people to print their visa or follow up their application status.
He said upgrading the call centre service as well as the e-mail system through which customers can communicate with the department staff 24 hours a day, seven days a week, have helped in reducing the number of complaints to zero.
"The emergency service for public is also round the clock," he said.
All those services by GDRFA, Maj Gen Al Merri said, "can't be attained without team work and leadership spirit".
‘The core force'
He also stressed on the significance of GDRFA employees, whom he described as "the core force that takes the department's performance to the top nationally and internationally".
"We work with the belief that customer satisfaction is achievable."
As part of our human services, new residency laws facilitated issuing of visas for all those who wish to enter the country in general and those who wish to obtain a visa for medical treatment, in particular.
A specialised committee meets almost daily to study the humanitarian situations of any application individually.
The humanitarian committee at the department works in a full transparent manner by applying "the spirit of the law" to deal with humanitarian situations.