x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

110 illegal immigrants held in Fujairah sweep

Police officers and members of the Armed Forces swept Fujairah for two days last week, arresting 110 suspected illegal immigrants in boats off the coast, hiding in mountains and being sheltered by residents.

Police officers and members of the Armed Forces swept Fujairah for two days last week, arresting 110 suspected illegal immigrants in boats off the coast, hiding in mountains and being sheltered by residents. The Ministry of Interior, whose officers also joined in the raids, said all those arrested were from Asian countries. Another four people, three men and a woman, were arrested for sheltering them.

Coastguard officers chased down two boats loaded with "infiltrators" in separate missions, Maj Gen Nasser al Menhali, acting assistant undersecretary at the Ministry of Interior for Naturalisation, Residency and Borders, said yesterday. Col Saeed al Rashidi, the head of the ministry's directorate that tracks foreigners who violate immigration laws, added: "Fujairah Police also caught a group of 22 infiltrators who thought they were hiding from the eyes of the police in the mountainous areas of Fujairah."

Another 25 suspected visa violators, including eight women, were caught in people's homes, according to officials, who would not say exactly when the raids took place. The operation was launched after police in Dibba received tips saying people were sneaking through the valleys in the mountainous Al Faqeet and Roll Dedna areas. Yousef al Naqbi, 38, from nearby Khor Fakkan, said: "Before there were so many people coming and now because of the law it's changed. The security is also very hard, they always catch them. In Fujairah, thanks to God, there is so much safety here now."

Maj Ahmed Ibrahim, the manager of the Fujairah International Marine Club, who served with the police and emirate's Coastguard for 27 years, said that in the end, illegal immigration was harmful to both society and the immigrants themselves. "It's being controlled much better than before, but every week there are people coming," he said. "It is bad for the country because they don't find a job and when they do they are mistreated."

Attitudes about employing illegal immigrants have changed dramatically in the past 10 years, Maj Ibrahim said. "The people were more relaxed because in our culture you welcome everybody and in our religion we say we need to help people," he said. "But due to the problems that it creates, we realised that these things should be stopped and if you come you must come through the proper channels. People understand it is bad for the country at the end of the day."

According to Ministry of Interior figures, 27,000 illegal workers and 550 illegal immigrants were arrested across the UAE in 2009. Most are believed to enter through the Hajar mountains from the Musandam Peninsula of Oman, after crossing the Gulf from the port city of Bandar Abbas, Iran. The steep fjords and coves of Musandam make it ideal for smugglers, who cross the 100-kilometre Strait of Hormuz at night.

Illegal immigrants can be punished by three months in prison, or a fine of Dh10,000 (US$2,700). Employing or housing an illegal immigrant carries a two-month prison sentence and a Dh100,000 fine. A Dh50,000 fine can also be imposed on those who employ people they have not sponsored, or if they allow someone they sponsore to work for other employers. hdajani@thenational.ae azacharias@thenational.ae