Commuters bargaining with an illegal taxi for a car pool in Dubai recently. Image Credit: DEVADASAN/Gulf News

Dubai: Over the years, those operating illegal taxis have changed their ways constantly to evade the authorities — from pursuing prospective customers randomly to dressing up smartly as chauffeurs at airports.

Regardless of the option they choose, the authorities warned that they are unlikely to get away with it. A fresh campaign has been launched to crack down on illegal taxis in the city.

The Road and Transport Authority (RTA) said the battle against illegal taxis is a relentless one.

In an exclusive interview, Furat Ali Al Amri, Director of Franchise and Monitoring at the (RTA), told Gulf News the significance of the campaign and the reasons behind it.

Apart from eating into the income of legally run taxis, he said illegal taxis pose a serious security threat to commuters.

“Those hiring illegal taxis to save little money are inadvertently putting themselves at risk,” he warns.

Illegal taxi drivers dress up as chauffeurs, act as concierge or try out other get ups even, but they are unlikely to be missed by the trained eyes of RTA’s inspectors, Al Amri said.

The department has 36 inspectors in vehicles section and 55 in buses section who are always on the lookout for illegal taxi operators.. “These inspectors operate undercover and follow those suspected to be involved, before intervening,” Al Amri said.

He said the illegal practice also affects the image of the city. “We receive so many tourists; they may mistake the poor service of the illegal cabs as the norm here, for instance,” he said.

A number of inspectors are deployed at airport departures due to this reason, he said.

The first time offenders are fined Dh5,000. The fine is doubled to Dh10,000 if the offence is committed a second time and if it is repeated once again, the offender — if he is an expatriate — is deported from the country.

Fifteen offenders were deported in the past three years — seven in 2009, seven in 2010 and one in 2011, Al Amri said.

In 2009, 2,525 offenders were held for running illegal taxis. The figure dropped to 2,157 in 2010. However it increased to 2,537 in 2011, he said.

Most of the offenders are from Pakistan, Bangladesh, India, Afghanistan and the Philippines.

There have also been cases of bribes offered to inspectors to get away from being punished, Al Amri added.

Apart from taxis and buses, limousine services are also monitored by these inspectors. Sofar no limousine in the city was found being used as an illegal taxi, he said.

“Increasing awareness of commuters to stay away from illegal cabs is imperative,” he said, calling on the public to report any instances they may come across.