Dubai: Confusion prevailed over the end of the amnesty period as thousands of people gathered in front of amnesty centres on Monday even as doors had already been closed to illegal immigrants on Sunday.
According to various Ministry of Interior (MoI) statements, the last day for granting amnesty was Monday, but several centres, including Al Aweer Centre, had stopped accepting applications unannounced on Sunday, turning away thousands of people.
“We stopped receiving applications from people on Sunday morning,” said Major General Mohammad Ahmad Al Merri, Director General of the General Directorate for Residency and Foreigners Affairs in Dubai. Contrary to the MoI statements, the sudden closure of amnesty centres surprised many.
Brigadier Dr Abdullah Sahoo, director of the General Directorate for Residency and Foreigners Affairs in Sharjah and head of the media committee for the amnesty campaign, told Gulf News that the amnesty campaign, which started on December 4, was on for 60 days only and, therefore, ended on February 2.
“The MoI kept saying that for those who overstay their visit or tourist visas and illegal residents, the last day of amnesty will be Monday but they suddenly stopped it a day earlier,” said Hisham from Jordan.
Over 1,000 illegal residents and visitors who had gathered on Monday in front of Al Aweer Centre were all turned away.
Many consulates and embassies were also not aware of the last date for amnesty as they continued processing papers even on Monday.
Many illegals want the amnesty period to be extended. A Bangladeshi expat who has been living illegally here since 2000 said the grace period announced by the ministry was sufficient for those who wanted to leave the country but not enough for those wished to stay on and pay the fines.
“We hope it will be extended and wish that the information about the ban and waiving the fines was clear,” he said.
Raju, an Indian expatriate, said he had read in some advertisements on taxis in Sharjah that the amnesty would finish on Monday and was hence trying to get money to buy air tickets for him and his family to leave. He was shocked to realise that the amnesty had ended earlier.
“I went to an Ajman amnesty camp to apply, but I was turned away as it was closed on Sunday,” he said, adding this was unfair as he was able to arrange for the air tickets only on Saturday.
As many as 22,000 people applied for amnesty in Dubai alone, according to a top official.