Yesterday was the last day for amnesty seekers to leave without penalty. The authorities have announced that they will begin a massive crackdown and search for those illegals who are still in the country.

The Ministry of Interior is scanning the irises of those leaving. Those found living in the country illegally from now on will be punished under Federal Law No. 13 of 1996. They will face a maximum jail term of 10 years and Dh10, 000 fine.

The minimum punishment is one-month jail term and Dh1, 000 fine under the current law. The authorities will not only punish the illegal workers, but also those who are giving them shelter will be immediately deported without trial.

The last hours of amnesty did not show any rush in Dubai and the Northern Emirates. Though the number of illegal residents in the country exceed 400,000, so far the number of those who have left has not reached the anticipated 100,000 since the enforcement of the amnesty in January.

An Interior Ministry official said the ministry is making all efforts to flush out illegals in cooperation with the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs and all police departments in addition to the municipalities.

However, some of the illegals standing in the queue at the Northern Emirates' Naturalisa-tion and Residency Departments said since this is the last amnesty the government needs to extend the pardon period. A housemaid said she does not believe the jail terms will be enforced, and asked: "Who will pay the fines for them?"

She said: "I think they will only be deported." But the Interior Ministry's officials said that they will not be given any more chances. They should get permits and within two weeks they must leave. "We have granted them five-month grace period which is more than enough," he said.

However, he said, the number of the amnesty seekers is much below expectations.

At the Dubai Naturalisation and Residency Department, the number of illegal women seeking amnesty did not exceed 100 a day and men not more than 200. "We are only putting a one-year ban on them. We are helping them to leave without punishment but it seems that they do not believe that we will apply heavy penalties."

Officials said more than 30,000 of those who benefited from the amnesty are from Bangladesh and the rest from India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Iran and the Philippines. They include migrants who have sneaked into the UAE illegally and expatriates who have overstayed or violated the visa rules.

Dubai missions expressed satisfaction on the number of illegals leaving in a dignified manner.

Pakistan Consul-General Amanullah Larik said: "Things have gone well. We have issued so far about 12,000 outpasses. During the one-month extension period we have issued 1,200 outpasses. According to our information more than 7,000 overstayers have left."

The Sri Lankan consulate has so far issued 1,900 outpasses. The consulate was open on Friday to help the illegals.

A source from the Indian consulate said nearly 25,000 Indian illegals were in the emirates, but the number of amnesty-seekers who had come to the missions were far less. The number of passports received by the consulate from immigration was 13,718, of which 4,010 were delivered, while the rest are pending.

In Abu Dhabi, officials reiterated that those illegal workers not leaving would be punished. Contrary to earlier expectations, immigration offices were not crowded yesterday as most of the illegal migrants had already been processed and given permits to depart.

Authorities said that yesterday was the last day of the general pardon and there would be no more extension for possible overstayers, who will be tracked down in intensified search raids in the coming period.

In a letter yesterday, the country's top immigration official urged those offices to handle the remaining illegal aliens but warned them not to accept any applications afterwards.

"Please make sure that you handle all those who report to the immigration office today (yesterday), the last day of the general amnesty," said Hadher Al Muhairi, Director-General of the General Directorate of Natura-lisation and Residency.

"Those who are processed today should be given a period of two weeks to leave. Any one who comes tomorrow (today) will be considered an offender and will be treated according to the country's immigration laws."

"I don't think that too many of them have overstayed. But believe me that those who have failed to benefit from this amnesty will be caught. The search campaigns which we plan to carry out will be on a much larger scale than earlier ones," Muhairi told Gulf News.

"They will involve teams from the immigration, police, security and labour and all companies and other facilities will be targeted."

Hoping that the departure of the offenders would restore discipline to the labour market, Muhairi urged employers and the public to cooperate with authorities.

"There will be no more amnesties. We have been very generous with illegals and it is time to get tough. I call upon employers not to recruit violators of the labour and residence laws and on all citizens to report any violations to the authorities," he said.

Overstayers and infiltrators are tempted by the country's high income, which stood at nearly $20,000 last year, one of the biggest per capita incomes in the world. But officials have expressed concerns about such phenomenon on the grounds it undermines discipline and order in the labour market and gives rise to crime.

In Ras Al Khaimah, 3,130 amnesty seekers approached the Naturalisation and Immigration Department to take advantage of the amnesty.

Lt Col Jassim bin Issa, head of the department, said most of them have already been deported and the rest are finalising procedures to leave.

Highlighting the importance of the one-month extension to the amnesty, he said it encouraged more amnesty seekers to leave the country without fines and other punishment. During the first week of the extension, only 100 amnesty seekers approached the department daily to leave.

Issa warned that as the amnesty period has ended, the immigration department will run campaigns to arrest all the violators. The number of seekers during the extension period has been much greater than the early part of the four-month period.

More than 300 amnesty-seekers approached the department in Ras Al Khaimah yesterday to complete their papers.

Coast guard sources said additional patrol boats have been deployed in the UAE's territorial waters while helicopters and reconnaissance aircraft would regularly monitor border areas. High level talks would also be held with Oman to step up coordination against infiltration attempts, most of which occur near the UAE-Omani borders.