Text size:

  • Small
  • Normal
  • Large

Amnesty raises issue of children lacking papers

Aside from helping normalise the immigration status of many individuals who need help (often, admittedly, because of their own errors), the amnesty programme for illegal immigrants benefits society as a whole.

The UAE amnesty for illegal residents concludes today after a two-month period. Residents whose visas have expired have had the rare chance to leave the country without incurring the normal penalties. Tens of thousands have turned themselves in to their embassies and immigration offices seeking amnesty visas to leave. Starting today, those who have not left the country will face much tougher penalties.

The amnesty comes as part of a government initiative to address the so-called shadow population in the UAE, for the most part economic migrants who have overstayed their residency permits or visit visas. Aside from helping normalise the immigration status of many individuals who need help (often, admittedly, because of their own errors), the amnesty programme benefits society as a whole. Undocumented residents pose public-health risks, as they are less likely to seek medical care, and are associated with a range of other social issues.

In the previous amnesty in 2007, nearly 350,000 illegal immigrants left the UAE - embassies are reporting far fewer applicants this time around. But there is more to the issue than statistics.

Recent reports have highlighted another social priority in the amnesty programme. Most of the adults who have stayed in the country illegally did so knowingly - yet this amnesty has identified children who, by no fault of their own, are not only in the UAE without documentation, but some who don't have citizenship papers from any country at all.

As The National reports today, an Indian woman who has been working illegally as a maid has tried to benefit from the amnesty, along with her 9-year-old daughter. But the girl doesn't have any nationality papers, having been born at home, and her father has long since abandoned the family. The dilemma is an immediate reminder of another tragic case 10 days ago, when a 3-year-old girl, Amna, was found wandering alone in a Sharjah hospital. That girl, whose father has admitted abandoning her and now faces abuse charges, also lacked documents after her mother left without her to return to her home country.

Undocumented adults are responsible for their own behaviour, but there can be no doubt that these children deserve every support. UAE social services have stepped in, in the case of the 3-year-old; in other cases, the embassies of the countries of origin have to show flexibility and creativity in helping their young nationals secure the needed documentation.

The amnesty has started a process to address these problems, but more needs to be done. For these children and families, there are enough challenges without starting out without any citizenship papers at all.

Back to the top

More articles

Editor's Picks

 An Egyptian Orthodox Christian priest give communion during the Palm Sunday service inCairo, Egypt. Mohamed El-Shahed / AFP

Region in focus - April 18, 2014

The best images of the last seven days from around the Gulf and across the Middle East.

 Above, the private pool of Ocean Heights' five-bedroom penthouse flat. Courtesy Christie’s International Real Estate

In pictures: Penthouse flat is height of Dubai luxury living

A five-bedroom penthouse in Ocean Heights in Dubai Marina is on sale for Dh25 million and comes with a private pool and an unparalleled view of Dubai.

Video: Local reactions to a national fishing ban

A federal fishing ban has been imposed by the UAE federal government, but local authorities are taking diiferent approaches to implementing the ban. Two fishermen tell two very different sides of the story. Produced by Paul O'Driscoll

 Hamburg players leave the field after the match against Borussia Moenchengladbach on March 30, 2014. AFP

Hamburg the dinosaur’s time may be up in Bundesliga

Ever-present for 51 years in the German top-flight, Hamburg face the prospect of relegation, writes Ian Hawkey.

 The new Bentley GT Speed convertible on display at a press event of the New York International Auto Show. Jason Szenes / EPA

In pictures: Hot cars at New York International Auto Show

With more than 1 million visitors annually, the New York International Auto Show is one of the most important shows for the US car industry. Here are some of the vehicles to be shown in this year’s edition.

 The cast of Fast & Furious 7, including Michelle Rodriguez and Vin Diesel, centre, on set at Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National

Fast & Furious 7 filming in full swing at Emirates Palace

Filming for Fast & Furious 7 has started and we have the first photos of the cast and crew on set at Emirates Palace hotel this morning. Visitors staying at Emirates Palace say they have been kept away from certain areas in the grounds.


To add your event to The National listings, click here

Get the most from The National