Albert Santos Gayo (left) hugs his brother Allan Santos Gayo during the reunion organised by Sharjah Police, Air Arabia and Emirates Palace in Sharjah. Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News

Sharjah: Twenty prisoners in Sharjah were given a surprise reunion with their families on Wednesday evening even as part of a Year of Tolerance initiative, with one of the inmates even being released immediately after the function and flown back to his native Philippines that night.

Chosen for their good behaviour and to encourage them to be good citizens after their release, all were shocked to enter a dining area only to be greeted by their families, who had been invited by Sharjah Police.

“Emotions were raw as many of them had not seen each other for a long time,” said Brigadier Ahmad Suhail, director general of the Sharjah Punitive and Rehabilitation Establishment.

“Detention is a hardship for families and loves one. This initiative is a reward for well behaved inmates,” he added.

Video by: Aghaddir Ali/Gulf News

The reunion was organised by Sharjah Police, Air Arabia, which offered free tickets to the families, and Emirates Palace, which offered free accommodation and meals. All police officers and jail wardens were dressed in civilian clothes for the function.

The biggest surprise of all was for Filipino inmate Albert Santos, 58, who was released and flown back home to the Philippines that night after being held in jail for 13 months for owing Dh52,000 in two rental dispute cases in Dubai and Sharjah. The case was still tied up in the courts but the facility paid his debts and flew him and his brother home.

It boosts the selfesteem of inmates when they see their family and friends visit them on this day.

- Brigadier Ahmad Suhail | Director general of the Sharjah Punitive and Rehabilitation Establishment

Santos thanked the police for their generosity and said his time in jail had made him more religious.

“It boosts the self-esteem of inmates when they see their family and friends visit them on this day,” added Brigadier Al Suhail. “And, upon release, they work hard to do something meaningful with their lives, because they know the importance of family.”

The reunion was organised by Sharjah Police, Air Arabia and Emirates Palace, in Sharjah. Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/ Gulf News

A number of officials from diplomatic missions representing the prisoner’s home countries attended the function and praised the initiative.

Ayubkhon Yunusov, consul for the Consulate of Uzbekistan in Dubai, said: “We are here to help our citizens and we thank Sharjah Police for this initiative.”

Al Hashimi Abdul Aziz, deputy consul-general of Morocco, added: “I started my work in the UAE recently and have never seen such an event in other countries that helps inmates reform and start a new life.”

A Uzbek male inmate in jail for 36 months on charges of bounced cheques worth Dh2 million said he never imagined he would see his family again.

His wife said: “They brought us here from Uzbekistan. When they rang me to invite me here, I burst into tears.”

Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News

A Jordanian inmate, who is a year and four months into a five-year sentence for money-laundering, burst into tears when he saw his mother and grandmother, who had travelled from Jordan.

“They gave us the opportunity to sit with our son for five hours, without restrictions or barriers,” said the mother.

“It is not strange that such humanitarian initiatives are carried out by a country of such tolerance. We are very happy to have had the opportunity to visit the UAE and sit with our son, talk and share dinner in an atmosphere of familiarity and love.

“They welcomed us warmly and bore the costs of travel and accommodation, so we thank them dearly.”

Meanwhile, an Emirati inmate who has been in jail for 15 years after being sentenced to death for murder, thanked Sharjah Police for the initiative and their continued efforts to get a pardon from the family of the victim.