UAE | Employment

Illegals in UAE find it difficult to return home

Community groups step forward to help illegals get air tickets

  • By Sunita Menon, Videographer
  • Published: 21:00 January 12, 2013
  • Gulf News

  • Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News
  • Illegals from India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka with entry permits and expired visa seek funds to buy air fare to return back home during the amnesty period.

Dubai: Holding an exit permit in one hand and an expired passport in the other, a frail looking Mir Hossain, a Bangladeshi approaches a passer-by for help. “I am an illegal. I have already got myself an exit permit please help me to get a one way air ticket to my home country.”

His pleas are met with a frown and he is warned to get out of the way or else he will be handed over to the police.

An apologetic Mir dashes off across the street to join a group of men who, from a distance looked like enjoying the cool winter outdoors after a hard day’s work.

But as you go closer you will find that these men are all illegals. They gather at the same spot near the clock tower in Sharjah every evening debating on whether or not they should take advantage of the amnesty period. They are mainly from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.

Like Mir, these men have entered the country many years back legally by paying huge sums in their respective countries to recruitment agents to eke out a better future for their families back home.

With only a fortnight remaining for the amnesty period to end many among them have opted to stay back not because they don’t want to return back to their home country but because of lack of funds or lack of information. The two-month amnesty period which started on December 4, 2012 ends on February 3 this year.

Sounding desperate Mir said: “My visa expired some five years back. You are from the newspapers and I am sure you can help me or provide me with some guidance on how and where should l go to get funds to buy an air ticket.”

According to his passport he was born in 1973 but Mir looked much older. “What should I do now? If I don’t get the money for the ticket, I am going to stay back and carry on as an illegal. I earn Dhs40 to Dhs50 or at times even less than that on a single day by freelancing as a carpenter. I have to take care of my food and the bed-space.”

Similar is the case of Shahid who also hails from Bangladesh. He turned illegal four years back. Taking out a consular fees receipt from his wallet that said: “I paid Dh203 to process my papers.” When asked about the papers that he is getting processed he said: “I think it is to get out of the country. I will go next week to find out if it is ready. My entire day goes wasted travelling to Dubai, in other words there is no earning. I can’t afford taxi fare so I take a bus. I want to go back but if the procedures involved prove tedious I might just stay back. Let the police catch me and put me in jail. Many of us wish to get arrested by police and get deported.”

Listening attentively to what Shahid had to say, Doraiswamy, an Indian who was standing in the crowd, came forward and proudly announced that he came to the UAE in 1996 and that he has been an illegal since 1999. “It is good that the government has announced amnesty but I refuse to take it,”


To which he replied: “I have been in this country for over 15 years. I came to this country on a valid employment. I worked really hard as a mason on a construction site. Some labour problem happened over there. I got my passport, left the construction company and ever since I have been working as daily wage earner. On a lucky day I end up earning Dh70 to Dh100. All these years I have not gone home,”.

When asked about his family back home and whether he was able to improve their financial status, Doraiswamy, smiled and preferred not to talk about it.

Gulf News also came across women domestic helpers who have been working as part time despite being illegal. They work in several homes in a single day and earn about Dh 1500 to Dh 2000 on monthly basis. This is despite a strict law being in place under which heavy penalties are also imposed on all those who employ these illegal domestic helpers.

Nalini, 52, a Sri Lankan domestic helper, has no plans to make use of the amnesty period. She plans to return to her home country in couple of years.

“I came here in 1999 on a valid visa to work as a domestic help in an Asian family. I used to get paid Dh 650 in salary. The family treated me well but when I got to learn that working as part-time domestic help will earn me more money, I absconded. Today, I earn Dh 1500 monthly. It all depends on the number of houses that I get to work for.”

Nalini said she came to UAE after the death of her husband who used to work as a policeman in Colombo. “He was the bread earner of the family. No doubt I had to work really hard but with the money that I earned in this country. I got my daughter educated. She is a civil engineer today. Her wedding took place last year in June to a good man who works in the same company where she is employed in Colombo. They fell in love.”

Not the one to be a dependent on her daughter and her son-in-law, Nailini today earns to save some money for herself. “If I go back, I don’t think I will be able to earn what I earn over here. Just a couple of years more and then I will go back and spend my old age with my daughter. I want to financially independent,” she said.

But what about this constant fear of being caught by the police. “If I get caught, I will be put in jail and deported but up until then let me work,” she said.

Comments (6)

  1. Added 13:21 January 13, 2013

    December 3, 2012 Gulf News wrote that as quoted "In cases where violators cannot afford an air ticket, they will receive support either in the form of liquidating their bank guarantee deposited at the Ministry of Labour, or where no guarantee exists, they will be helped by the authority on humanitarian grounds." They have even written that the contact details for people to contact them on the details which is fine. But the question is the amount of violators not all understand both Arabic and English and mostly I believe are mostly blue collar workers. The respective embassies or the authority itself should assist these certain individuals in a proper manner. Since Gulf News has highlighted the place where they gather usually, they should send someone every week or every day to make them aware of amnesty program. And not only in Gulf news but every different form of media should be used in order to have them aware of it. Probably send an sms to every mobile and to take advantage of the program.

    Gazi Naeemul Karim, Dubai, Bangladesh

  2. Added 12:49 January 13, 2013

    I look forward to the future when the whole earth will be an earthly paradise with satisfying employment and housing opportunities for all, when 'each one will sit under his own fig tree,' when all races will be treated as equals and every part of the earth is a home to everyone. From a resident with a bright hope for the future

    Sujah Samson-Paul, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  3. Added 12:03 January 13, 2013

    Embassies should pave a smooth way for their exit. Since the overstayers have already come forward to leave the country, concerned Embassy should calculate the total number of persons and bargain with the Airlines Company for a cheaper deal and appeal to big corporates. Such corporates, as a one-time mission make some arrangments by collecting contributions from their employees, a half-day salary across the company would enable them to mobilize the money required, which would bring cheer and happiness on the faces of these suffering human beings.

    Venkat.S., DXB, United Arab Emirates

  4. Added 10:49 January 13, 2013

    It's a great humanitarian move by the authorities to let these residents go back to their respective countries. To offset the cost of penalties that the authorities will not recover, they could take details of all the employers who hired these residents and penalize them.

    latif Shaikh, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  5. Added 10:25 January 13, 2013

    Yes they are illegals, but they did not come to UAE illegaly. At that time UAE needed them and they contributed to the development of this country. As a result people are happy and enjoying very well. The illegal people have lost everything to stay here for a longtime, visas, their young age, family, loves, feelings and happiness. They have worked hard under the sun. So, please help them. Please help these great people for humanity because they don't have hope and future.

    Mohammad Iftekhar Hussain, abu dhabi, United Arab Emirates

  6. Added 09:52 January 13, 2013

    i think in this situation, the embassy and the national carriers of the respective countries should take the onus and help their countrymen to return back to their homeland. Charter flights should be introduced so that majority of the people can benefit from them. The Airlines should not take this as a profit making tool but rather contribute towards society.

    Mustafa, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

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