Exit time: A file picture of amnesty applicants waiting for their applications to be processed at the Ministry of Interior Naturalisation and Residency Administration Dubai. Image Credit: XPRESS

Dubai Around 40,000 Indians are expected to take advantage of the amnesty announced by the UAE Government for illegal residents to return to their homelands without paying fines, a top official said.

The Ministry of Interior on Tuesday announced the general pardon for illegal residents to leave without paying penalties over a two-month period starting December 4. The amnesty applies only to those who have entered the country legally but overstayed. Infiltrators will continue to be treated as criminals.

K. Kumar, Convenor of the Indian Community Welfare Committee (ICWC) under the Indian Consulate, told XPRESS on Wednesday: “This is a very welcome move and we urge community members to make use of the golden opportunity.”

He said there are nearly 40,000 Indians who are stuck in the country and can apply for the amnesty. They mainly include blue-collar workers and lower- and middle-class families. They could be illegals or could be overstaying in the country for various reasons including debt, job losses, travel bans etc. He said: “ICWC is working with the Indian Consulate to set up special centres to facilitate applicants who must lose no time in making their applications.”

The Ministry of Interior has said this would be the last chance for illegals to leave the country without punishment. It has categorically ruled out any extension of the two-month pardon. The deadline also applies to those who are overstaying and want to change their legal status if they can.

Benefits to expatriates

Nalinakshan Erattapuzha, spokesperson for the Overseas Indian Cultural Congress and a working committee member of the Malayalee Samajam in Abu Dhabi, said the challenge is to make those in the interior of the country aware of the opportunity.

“I think the decision will benefit people who are stranded because of debts and job losses. In some cases, people are forced to stay illegally after their employer absconds without returning the passports,” he said. “We are planning to reach out to people who are living in the interior areas and make them aware about the opportunity to regularise their stay or exit the country,” he added.

C.P. Mathew, founder of the NGO Valley of Love (VoL), said welfare organisations and community members should pitch in to create awareness about the initiative and help those seeking the amnesty to complete the necessary paperwork and get clearances, besides arranging tickets.

He said during the last amnesty in 2007, VoL volunteers also extended support to the authorities at DNRD. “This time too we are ready to offer any services that might be expected of us.”

VoL Vice-President Joseph Bobby said: “Every day we get three to four calls from people asking us if there is any chance of leaving the country without paying fines. There are many who want to legalise their status as well. This is the time to do it and we will assist them in every way we can.”

Raju B.P., general manager of the India Social Centre, a social and cultural body in Abu Dhabi, said: “We will urge families and workers residing illegally in the country to make use of this opportunity.”

According to Kumar, to apply for amnesty, applicants should produce whatever documents they have like passports, copies of passports and proof of their Indian citizenship. “If all criteria are met, the application should be processed in three days,” he said.

Illegal residents must still undergo biometric scanning during deportation.

For more information about general pardon, call toll-free number 800 5111