Dubai: Concerned by the low turnout of outpass applicants, diplomatic missions in the UAE have renewed calls to their overstaying citizens to make the most of what is left of the amnesty, which ends Sunday.
Some missions told XPRESS that less than 15 per cent of the estimated over-stayers from their countries have applied for outpasses or travel documents so far.
Grace Princesa, the Philippine Ambassador to the UAE, said 2,000 overstaying Filipinos have obtained outpasses — less than 11 per cent of the 19,000 initially estimated by the Philippine authorities.
“The number looks low against initial estimates.” However, she said many overstaying Filipinos have amended their situations as UAE companies have re-started hiring with the economic recovery kicking in. “This perhaps explains the low turnout.”
This was echoed by the Frank Cimafranca, Philippine Consul General in Dubai, who urged last-minute applicants not to let the grace period pass.
He cited circumstantial evidence of how businesses helped curb the number of amnesty seekers: “I talked to a Dubai employer who said he was seeking to hire 5,000 people due to the ongoing business expansion. Those who overstayed for only a few weeks or months whose skills are still needed here may have found it easier to amend their situation.”
At the Indonesian Embassy, 767 outpasses were processed as of January 26. “We don’t expect this number to cross 1,000 by Sunday when the amnesty ends,” said Wisnu Sindhutrisno, First Secretary, Protocol and Consular Affairs. He said: “An estimated 5,500 Indonesian over-stayers are believed to be in the country. We appeal to them to come forward and get help to leave the country or regularise their status. We are in constant touch with manpower agencies both here and in Indonesia to trace them.”
Some consulates said they will remain open over the weekend to facilitate last-minute applications. M.M. Abdul Raheem, Sri Lankan Consul General in Dubai, said: “We will be open this weekend to facilitate outpass applications. We have processed 600 applications so far and expect another 100 to come in by February 3. This is a far lower number compared to the 4,000 outpasses we issued during the 2007 amnesty.”
He said the number of Sri Lankan illegals in the country has drastically come down since 2007 because of more stringent laws and fewer job opportunities.
The Pakistani Embassy in Abu Dhabi has issued 5,867 outpasses so far. A source at the mission said: “This figure is not indicative of the number of people who’ve exited the country. The final figures will be released by the UAE authorities after the amnesty ends.”
On January 5, the Ministry of Labour announced that between December 4 and January 4, 20,000 illegal residents from 106 nations approached the immigration authorities and more than 9,400 left the country.
M.K. Lokesh, Indian Ambassador in the UAE, said: “We have issued 2,600 outpasses so far. The number is small because there are fewer illegals in the UAE now. In fact, the number of workers coming to the UAE from India has itself fallen — it has reduced by half since 2008.”
He said: “We are the only mission that had 14 outlets in the UAE to facilitate outpass applications. We urge those who have still not applied to please rush.”