Kerala Muslim Cultural Centre officials after opening the help desk at their office in Dubai to facilitate documentation of amnesty seekers. Image Credit: Courtesy: KMCC

Dubai: Indian community groups and social workers gearing up to assist their missions in facilitating the upcoming visa amnesty in the UAE say hundreds of families are likely to benefit from the waiver of re-entry ban.

Hundreds of dependents of Indian expats have been overstaying in the UAE due to financial issues, some social workers and community leaders told Gulf News. In most cases, their children have not been able to go to school and most of them live in fear of being caught.

Many of these family members would most likely be able to legalise their residency status during the three-month visa amnesty that is expected to begin from August 1, they said.

The Kerala Muslim Cultural Centre (KMCC) in Dubai, which on Sunday opened a help desk to collect the documents of Indian expats wishing to seek amnesty, has already received applications from a few families, said its president K. Anwar Naha.

“We have received five-six applications already. Two or three of them are families,” he said on Monday.

According to Naha, the number of Indian workers, who live illegally in the UAE, has considerably come down compared to their number during the last amnesty in 2013.

“Labour issues have been largely resolved due to the strict rules, standardisation of facilities and intervention of the government. We believe there will be more number of families who will seek amnesty this time than in the previous amnesty.”

A volunteer with the Indian Association Sharjah said the association had received around 120 cases of families living illegally due to various issues last year.

“Most of them are here because their passports were pawned with private money lenders and then they couldn’t renew visas or passports. We managed to send home some of these families. But a majority of them are still around.”

He said this amnesty would be a golden chance for them to either go back home or correct their legal status and stay back here if they are eligible to do so.

Another social worker in Dubai, Nazar Nandi, said he also personally knows about several cases of families overstaying due to debt traps.

“Right now, I am sitting in the office of a landlord to sort out the accommodation issues of one such family in Sharjah. I know of and help such families from other nationalities also,” he said on Monday afternoon.

However, Consul-General of India in Dubai Vipul said the consulate has not received reports of such a big number of families overstaying visas from the associations or social workers.

“Either we have not been informed or the families do not want to leave the country. I think there could only be a few dozens. Anyhow, whatever may be the number we will assist whoever is coming forward to take advantage of the amnesty.”

Naha said the KMCC office, which works even in late evening hours, is considered a welcoming place for families staying illegally to submit their applications.

“We do not have a corporate office-like set-up which usually discourages such families who are living in fear of being caught. So, we are hopeful that we can facilitate many such families by connecting them with our consulate and also providing them free air tickets if needed.

“We will also help them negotiate with banks and private money lenders to settle their financial cases.”

He said the KMCC volunteers have begun spreading awareness about the amnesty.

“We are checking the cases that we received during our monthly legal help session to contact labourers who had approached us after disputes with their employers.”

Social workers urged overstaying Indian expats in debt cases to take the initiative for negotiations to settle their financial liabilities so that their families would be able to get visa amnesty.

Others who have been urged to make use of the amnesty include absconding labourers, duped jobseekers and victims of visa racketeers.

Missions ready to assist

The Indian missions in the UAE are prepared to assist amnesty seekers among the country’s citizens, Consul-General of India in Dubai Vipul told Gulf News.

“We have been getting queries about amnesty. We are waiting for the official announcement to know the finer details.

“We have also been speaking to associations and community volunteers whose help we might need to reach out to the members of the community in this regard.”

“We are prepared to provide all assistance to issue emergency certificates [for those who do not have valid passports] and also air tickets to those who are eligible under the Indian Community Welfare Fund.”

He said he would encourage community groups to spread awareness about amnesty and support the applicants by assisting them with documentation along with BLS International, the company providing passport and visa documentation services.

About the amnesty

The UAE will grant a three-month general amnesty to foreigners who have violated the country’s residency laws starting from August 1.

Brigadier Saeed Rakan Al Rashidi, acting director-general of Foreigners Affairs and Ports Department at the Federal Authority for Identity and Citizenship, last week told Gulf News the violators will have the option to either rectify their legal status through paying nominal fees, or leave the UAE voluntarily without prosecution.

Details of the amnesty dubbed “Protect Yourself via Rectifying Your Status” will be announced soon.

A toll-free telephone number will be set up later to answer queries from members of the public about the amnesty and how to benefit from its provisions and the time granted to the violators who are living in the country without a valid visa.