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3,000 illegal Pakistanis apply for papers during UAE visa amnesty

The amnesty, launched four weeks ago, gives those living and working in the UAE a chance to register and avoid prosecution and deportation.

DUBAI // Almost 3,000 Pakistanis have taken advantage of the visa amnesty offered to illegal residents.

The immunity scheme, launched four weeks ago, gives those living and working in the UAE a chance to register and avoid prosecution and deportation.

"During the first four weeks of the amnesty around 235 Pakistanis were issued required travel documents," said a spokesman for the Pakistan Embassy in Abu Dhabi.

"The embassy is, however, stressing upon all such Pakistani nationals to avail of the amnesty and make their stay in this country legal, and to respect the laws of the land."

The embassy did not know how many Pakistanis might be staying in the UAE illegally but, as the February 4 deadline nears, they are bracing for a rush.

"What tends to happen is that those illegally in the country wait until the last minute to come forward so that they can make as much money as possible before leaving," said Mobisher Rabbani, a diplomatic consultant who worked at the Pakistan Consulate in Dubai during the last visa amnesty in 2007.

"At that time I think about 25,000 people took up the amnesty and we had a big rush as the deadline got close. I think the Government actually extended the deadline to allow embassies to process the people."

After February 4, offenders will face a Dh100 fine a day for visa breaches and Dh25 for residency offences.

A spokesman for the Pakistan consulate in Dubai said 2,700 had come forward for the amnesty to date.

More people tend to come forward at the consulate in Dubai, Mr Rabbani said, because of the larger Pakistani community in the city and also because it was easier for those living in the Northern Emirates to travel to.

Officials do not expect as many people to come forward during this amnesty as they did in 2007.

"Since then, the immigration system in Pakistan has become a lot more stringent and it's very difficult to get fake travel documents to be even allowed into the UAE now."

The new biometric passports along with more vigilant immigration officials and airlines will mean fewer Pakistanis are in the UAE illegally, he said.

"There is much better information for people in Pakistan now," said Mr Rabbani.

"Most people have realised that it's better to be in the UAE legally on a permanent visa than to try to get in illegally.

nhanif@thenational.ae

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