Subhash came to the UAE from India three years ago to work as a mason at a construction company. Image Credit: Supplied picture

Dubai: “My father was buried before I could see his face for one last time…I was stuck here, unable to travel. That is my biggest sorrow,” lamented a young expatriate as he used the amnesty to leave the UAE a few days ago. The Indian national told Gulf News he had no option but to stay illegally in the country for months because of his predicament.

Subhash, 29, said his troubles began when he agreed to his employer’s request to pledge his passport as a guarantee for another employee who was under arrest for a work site accident. “Beware about pledging your passport as a guarantor for someone else. I was still new to the UAE and naive, that is why I did it. Otherwise, things would have been different,” he said.

Subhash came to the UAE from India three years ago to work as a mason at a construction company. He hails from Varkala in Kerala.

“I went through hell,” he said, narrating his harrowing experiences of staying and working illegally in the UAE.

His story should serve as an example for other illegal immigrants to make use of the amnesty period, which ends on February 4, he said.

Subhash said that, more than a year before he was hired by the company, a worksite accident occurred while the company was carrying out maintenance works at a villa, and a Bangladeshi worker was killed.

The case was going on and the passport of a foreman, also from India, was under the custody of the court in connection with the accident.

“A while after I joined, I was told by the managing director of the company that the foreman had to travel back home urgently as his mother was unwell and was hospitalised in a critical condition,” Subhash recalls.

“He also told me the foreman was pleading for help and had promised to return within 15 days,” he said.

Since the owner of the company was the one who put forth the request, Subhash said he agreed to stand in for the other employee.

But weeks turned into months and there was no word from the foreman. Subhash kept enquiring at his office but did not get any helpful response. Meanwhile, work dried up and his company stopped paying wages. “The company would pay us and take it back from us, so that labour authorities didn’t come to know. We were helpless; if we didn’t support the company that way, we knew the company would collapse, so we held on. The situation went from bad to worse when the company was ordered by the court to pay Dh200,000 as blood money for the worker’s death,” he recalls.

“The next thing we heard was that the owner fled the country. Everything came to a standstill. There was no food, no electricity, and we were on the verge of being thrown out of the company accommodation in Ajman due to non-payment of rent.”

That is when Subhash took up a job illegally and decided to stay on by evading the authorities. “With the company no longer existing and my passport kept as guarantee, I didn’t know what else to do.”

The decision proved terrible for him, he said, but he only realised it when he was unable to head home when his father died. At times, when he was out of work, he had to beg for money. On other occasions, he had to do menial jobs for very low wages without any assurance of safety or any other benefits a legal employee would be entitled to.

“My mother is unwell now and I have to support my sisters as well.”

Subhash himself had himself begun facing health issues and was only thankful for the UAE government’s amnesty that allowed him to head home.