Indian Consulate officials attend to amnesty seekers at the Al Aweer Immigration Centre. Image Credit: Ahmd Ramzan/XPRESS

Dubai: Diplomatic missions and social workers have called upon all those who may have violated the UAE’s residency laws to use the three-month amnesty that began August 1 so that they can either leave the country or get their status regularised.

Social workers told XPRESS some overstayers are still reluctant to come out in the open because they fear the implications of possible police and court cases against them.

Chathura Weerasekera, head of chancery at the Sri Lankan Consulate in Dubai, said, “The amnesty is a great initiative by the UAE Government. It offers two options to those who have violated the residency rules: they can either exit or stay back provided they meet the legal requirements. We urge the Sri Lankan community to utilise this opportunity to the maximum benefit.” He said the consulate has drawn up a policy document with comprehensive details on how the community can seek assistance.

Legal framework

Ashique H. Shaikh, press counsellor, Consulate General of Pakistan, said, “Those who are eligible must make the most of the amnesty. We are here to facilitate them in every possible way within the legal framework.”

He said the consulate has been receiving several enquiries, but could not estimate the number of people who would use the amnesty yet. The Indian Consulate, which has set up a hot desk and hotline, among other arrangements, to facilitate amnesty seekers, has asked social workers and community organisations to collect details of those who would be eligible and also help get police clearances where possible. Those who have violated the residency laws fall under various categories, but not all would be eligible for the amnesty.

Various categories

As social worker C.P. Mathew said, “Many families have financial problems and have been overstaying for a long time hoping to get help. There are cases where children do not have any birth certificates or identity documents. Then there are absconders and also workers who have been living without pay, proper accommodation or passports as their employers have dumped them. Many workers are also stuck here after being duped by agents. And of course, there are people who are fighting police and court cases.”

He said, “Whatever the situation, this is the time for them to try and come clean and if eligible, avail the amnesty offer. But getting them out in the open to share their problems is a huge challenge.”

Social worker Pam Gouri, who does the rounds of hospitals to assist the ailing, said, “Some patients tell us they don’t want to go back because they like it here. They are in poor health and cannot afford to make a living, yet they want to stay on. They need a lot of convincing.”

With many approaching St Mary’s Catholic Church with enquiries, parish priest Father Lennie J.A. Connully said, “We want to help people who are taking advantage of this gesture by the UAE Government. Besides offering assistance in terms of advice on how to approach the Immigration desk, we will also extend financial help by providing return air tickets in deserving cases.”

Undocumented children

He said the church is willing to offer its assistance to undocumented children and their mothers languishing in jails if they are permitted by the authorities to apply for the amnesty. “We understand that there are over 70 such children and the church would like to reach out to them provided they are covered under the amnesty.”

So who is eligible to apply for the amnesty?

Social workers said only those with fines or residency law violations can expect a waiver. Dues related to other financial liabilities will not be covered. In fact, overstayers can apply for the amnesty only after they have settled other dues. However, absconders can get their names off the blacklist by paying a Dh500 fine, following which they can exit the UAE without a ban or change their sponsor.

Similarly, prisoners serving terms for residency violations, not other crimes, can apply for amnesty. Former residents who got an entry ban while leaving the country can also apply for a tourist, visit, resident or investor visa, provided they do not have any legal cases pending against them.

Although the amnesty will run till October 31, those who get the exit permit must leave the country within 21 days, failing which all fines will be reinstated. Also, they cannot reapply for amnesty. Those who violate the residency laws after July 31 will also not be eligible. Job seekers availing the six-month visa have to register with the Ministry of Human Resource and Emiratisation portal.

If they fail to get employment and rectify their status, they must exit the country. The social workers said those who have lost their passports and have not filed a police complaint can file one during the amnesty. If they wish to leave, they can apply for an emergency certificate or outpass from their respective missions and if they wish to remain, they can apply for a new passport.

Amnesty at a glance

The UAE Government’s visa Amnesty, which began on August 1, is called ‘Protect Yourself via Rectifying Your Status’. It allows expats violating the residency law a three-month grace period to either leave the country voluntarily without prosecution, or rectify their legal status by paying a fee.

Fee for rectifying status: Dh521

Fee for exit permit: Dh221

Fee to clear absconder report: Dh500

Where to apply:

GDRFA Dubai’s special tent at Al Aweer Immigration Centre which will mainly cater to those who wish to exit the country without fines or ban and also absconders wanting to clear their name while the Government’s 43 Amer centres located in different parts of Dubai will handle cases of visa status regularisation.

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