x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Dubai residency chief welcomes complaints

Maj Gen Mohammed Ahmed Al-Marri said he cannot be everywhere at once so would love the public to act as his eyes and point out areas for improvement.

DUBAI //Residents have been asked to complain more often to help the Department of Residency and Foreigners Affairs improve its services.

Maj Gen Mohammed Ahmed Al Marri, director general of the department in Dubai, said yesterday that passengers at the airport, sea ports and border crossings should contact them by email or telephone to suggest improvements to passport control or address visa issues.

"There may be people who are not happy to receive complaints, but I am happy and I would like you to come forward," Maj Gen Al Marri said. "I ask each one of you, whether at the airport or anywhere, you can enter our website and reach me with an email. So get in touch and we will reply to you."

Maj Gen Al Marri was speaking to more than 100 businessmen at an event organised by the Indian Business and Professional Council in Dubai.

"I have two eyes and one body so I cannot move everywhere. If you come to me with information that I didn't know about it's a credit for me. We would like our customers to be happy," he said.

Maj Gen Al Marri said travellers could also approach officers at the department's 27 centres across the emirate to address visa issues. One of the most common complaints - the long queues at immigration - is easily addressed by the e-gate system at airports. It scans and reads passport information and captures data to allow faster movement through passport control.

Maj Gen Al Marri said more e-gates have been added so residents could avoid the queues.

"I invite you to pass through our smart gates that are already fixed and working," he said.

"You go with your passport directly there and an officer will help you register. He will match the picture on your passport with you standing in front of him and 14 seconds after you can pass through the gate."

Maj Gen Al Marri, a former police officer who will celebrate seven years in the department next week, said his team had to balance ease of entry to the emirate with security.

His department is responsible for apprehending people living illegally and breaking residency laws.

"We must keep the country safe and so we must see that a passenger can pass through in seconds but also reject the people we don't want," he said.

"It is a sensitive issue and sometimes this gets misunderstood."

Another challenge the department may face is gearing up to handle floods of visitors if the country wins the bid to host the Expo 2020.

"We are trying to work harder," Maj Gen Al Marri said. "Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid [Vice President and Ruler of Dubai] is looking for 20 million tourists in Dubai, so there is a lot of work involved to ensure that visitors come in with a smile, experience our services and go back home with another big smile."

Several businessmen asked questions about long-term visas for major investors instead of the current two or three-year residence and work visas.

Paras Shahdadpuri, president of th Indian Business and Professional Council, said countries such as the United States, Britain and Singapore welcomed people with investments of Dh100 million with permanent residency.

"The short-term visa causes worry in people's minds, so a long-term visa of at least 10 years could be considered for senior professional and investors," he said, voicing a concern raised by many others.

Sanjay Verma, the Indian consul general in Dubai, said the large Indian community was invested in and committed to the country.

"Indians constitute 2 million in the UAE and there are more than 1 million Indian tourists who visit. We are also each others' biggest trading partners," he said. "The community is here for the long term."

Maj Gen Al Marri welcomed the comments but said a decision to extend long-term visas would need to come from decision makers with more authority.