x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Amnesty seekers prepare to leave UAE, but many are keen to return

More than 800 Indians have applied for emergency documents to leave the country under the amnesty on illegal residents.

Pandi Selvan, a construction worker from Tamil Nadu, is awaiting his documents to leave the country but has hopes of coming back soon. Pawan Singh / The National
Pandi Selvan, a construction worker from Tamil Nadu, is awaiting his documents to leave the country but has hopes of coming back soon. Pawan Singh / The National

DUBAI// Hundreds of Indians have applied to leave the UAE under the visa amnesty for illegal residents – but some want to come back.

More than 800 have approached the Indian missions for emergency certificates, temporary ID issued in the absence of a passport, since the amnesty began this month. More than 670 certificates have been issued.

“I would like to come back to work here,” said Pandi Selvan, 32, a construction worker from Tamil Nadu who applied for his emergency certificate yesterday.

“My company shut down a year ago. After that I did odd jobs for companies in Dubai. I want to find proper work and come back.”

Mr Selvan said: “Even if I find a job in India, I won’t get paid as much. I have made several friends here too.”

About 50,000 Indians left in an amnesty in 2007, and 36,000 legalised their status to stay.

Mr Selvan said the process of applying for the proper documents took too long. “I had to wait the whole day. There were many people waiting to renew their passports. It would be good if our turn came faster.”

He has now been told he can collect his his emergency certificate on February 10, almost a week after the amnesty deadline. He then has to approach UAE immigration to obtain an outpass.

Gangadhar P, 26, who worked as a cleaner, said he wouldn’t have considered leaving his family in India and coming to the UAE if they had not been so poor.

“Things are very expensive in India. My family is struggling to make ends meet. If I can get a good job in India, I would prefer to stay.”

Gangadhar had to apply for an emergency certificate after he was unable to track down his passport. After absconding from his employer 16 months ago, he illegally washed cars for a living.

“My company said they had handed my passport to the police. I checked with the police, immigration and the Indian consulate but nobody knows where my passport is.

“Many people are struggling because they are illiterate and do not know where to go.”

Abdul Latif, 28, who plans to leave in the next few days, needs help with the plane fare to return home.

“I have applied for an emergency certificate. I will get it in 15 days but I don’t have money for tickets. I hope somebody will help me.”

Mr Latif lost his job in a grocery shop two years ago.

Many people are asking the Dubai Kerala Muslim Cultural Centre for help to buy plane tickets. The charity’s office in Deira has accepted about 200 applications so far.

“After the immigration clearance and getting an outpass, they have to leave within 10 to 15 days. We have had about 150 requests and have helped about 25 people,” said Ibrahim Murichandi, the centre’s general secretary.

“We have requested companies for tickets. We hope philanthropists will come forward to help pay for worker tickets.”

He said the initial response to the amnesty had been lukewarm as people were worried that they could not return to the UAE.

“Most people are afraid local authorities will ban them from returning. That is why they are afraid to take the amnesty.

“They are waiting to see if they are placing a ban. We can’t guarantee whether they can come back or not. It is up to local authorities.”