x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

20% more illegal immigrants held

Police arrested 170 illegal immigrants in RAK last year, an increase of more than 20 per cent on 2008.

RAS AL KHAIMAH // Police arrested 170 illegal immigrants in RAK last year, an increase of more than 20 per cent on 2008. Col Sultan Yousef al Nuaimi, of the Ministry of Interior, said the increase was a result of tighter security rather than a rise in the numbers of people trying to get in illegally. If caught, illegal immigrants face a Dh10,000 (US$2,700) fine or three months in jail.

"The important message for people living here in the UAE is, don't let them work in the country or live in your houses," said Col al Nuaimi the ministry's general director of residence and foreign affairs in RAK. "If they have illegal visas here, they take a chance." The police are switching their focus to those who employ and rent to illegal workers and migrants - an offence for which just three people were charged last year.

Col al Nuaimi said the ministry was working with Oman to tighten security but ultimately it was up to citizens and residents to prevent migrants from trying to repeat their journeys. "If we give them any chance, they will come," said Col al Nuaimi. "These people don't know about the UAE. When they come here they find everything is different than they thought. This is very dangerous for people." Mohammed Qasim, 26, an illegal migrant from a village near Wazirabad, in north-east Pakistan, is evidence that the new strategy may be working. He turned himself into immigration after two months in RAK when he could not find work.

He had paid an agent 50,000 rupees (Dh3,945) to guide him to the UAE, the equivalent of more than two months' wages, with money borrowed from family and friends. Now, he is serving three months in jail before he is repatriated. "I came here myself so I could return to my country," he said. "It is a dream to go to Dubai but the reality is something else." azacharias@thenational.ae