Dubai: He lived in the UAE for 13 years without any valid document. Nothing else could have become a better birthday gift for Pothugonda Medi, who turned 47 on Monday, as he finally caught a flight home after getting a waiver of nearly half a million dirhams in overstay fines on Sunday.
The repatriation of the Indian worker from Hyderabad became possible after he sought help from the Indian Consulate in Dubai to avail the ongoing initiative of the UAE government to exempt visa violators from overstay fines.
The exemption is applicable to all those who are in the UAE whose visas either expired or cancelled before March 1, 2020. Such people — both residents and visitors who violated visa rules — have time till November 17 to leave the country with no fines and no entry ban.
Pothugonda told the Indian mission that he had come to the UAE on a visit visa in 2007, but the agent who brought him abandoned him. He also reported that the agent had not returned his passport, a consulate official told Gulf News.
“During the COVID-19 pandemic, he came to us as he could not find any odd jobs that he used to do earlier for his survival,” said Jithendra Negi, consul (Labour and Consular) at the Indian Consulate.
No official document
However, he said the consulate found it difficult to assist him immediately because he had no official document to prove he is an Indian citizen. The mission then sought the help of a social group in Hyderabad to trace Pothugonda’s family.
“With the support of the social worker Sriniwas, we managed to get the copies of his old ration card and election ID card from his native place. Some of the details that he gave were not matching, but still we could establish that he is an Indian.”
T. R. Sriniwas, chairman of Gulf Coordination Committee, BJP Hyderabad, who supported the consulate to collect Pothugonda’s documents, said he managed to get them from the latter’s village after he posted his photo seeking help on Facebook.
“But there was a problem. He had given his name in four different ways for four different documents. That created an issue. I had to seek the help of our MP (Member of Parliament) Dharmapuri Arvind to sort it out,” Sriniwas said over the phone from Hyderabad.
The mission then facilitated Pothugonda in issuing a free emergency document (EC) — a one-way travel document for Indians without a valid passport. “When we approached the local authorities, immigration officials could pull out his entry details. We got his passport copy and realised that his birthday is on September 14. We sped up all the exit formalities soon so as to help him fly home just in time for his birthday,” said Negi.
Make use of fine waiver
Apart from the free EC, the consulate also provided a free flight ticket for him.
Negi said Pothugonda was lucky that the UAE government waived close to half a million dirhams in overstay fines for him.
The official urged Indian citizens, who are eligible for fine exemption under the current amnesty period, not to delay in seeking help to clear their papers with the immigration departments through the Indian missions.
The General Directorate of Residency and Foreign Affairs in Dubai has so far waived millions of dirhams in fines for several overstaying Indians who applied through the consulate’s mechanism to support them for fee waiver. Many of them have received fine waivers directly also from the immigration offices for visa cancellation and completed their exit formalities as well.
The Indian missions in the UAE have waived the fees for Indians seeking to leave the country during the temporary amnesty period announced by the UAE government which has been extended till November 17.