x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Hundreds of illegals held in clampdown in Sharjah

Campaign follows a generous amnesty that gave illegals the chance to leave freely, with residents in Sharjah welcoming the move.

SHARJAH // Hundreds of illegal residents have been arrested in Sharjah as police continue their clampdown on people who did not leave the UAE during the recent visa amnesty.

A total of 61,826 people left during the amnesty, which ran from December to February to give those living and working illegally a chance to avoid fines, prosecution and deportation.

Since then police have carried out regular inspections of labour camps and industrial and residential areas, with 260 people arrested this month.

"This inspection campaign is part of a plan to counter the trend of illegal residency, a plan that was started off with a two-week awareness programme," said Brig Gen Abdullah Ali bin Sahoo, director general of the residency and foreigners' affairs department in Sharjah.

A week ago, 170 illegal residents from Asia and Africa were arrested, while on Tuesday, 22 men from Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nigeria and India were taken into custody.

Sixty eight men were arrested earlier in the month.

The men were begging, working as street vendors in some cases, or had fled their sponsor and were working for different employers.

Workers living in the emirate's industrial area say their accommodation units have been visited several times by police who ask to see their identification papers.

Anyone found without the proper documents is arrested, said Nassir Tarkhan, a 30-year-old Indian.

"A couple of my friends were arrested for not having papers.

"At first we thought they had gone missing, but because they are illegal we cannot file for a missing person. Then we find out they have actually been arrested," he said.

Another worker, called Osmani, said men who are living in the country legally were also stopped and questioned, and if they could not provide the necessary documentation were then arrested.

"If they don't find you with papers or you forgot them at home, they arrest you," he said.

"One of my roommates was arrested, and after not seeing him for two days, we got a call from police to bring his visa copy or passport to the industrial area police station.

"Once it was delivered and they ascertained he was rightly living in the country, they freed him."

He said men at his accommodation now no longer go out without their IDs or visa copies.

Fines for overstaying visas, breaching immigration rules and living in the country illegally start at Dh100 a day for visa offences, and Dh25 a day for residency breaches.

Anyone found to be in the country illegally is first detained at a police station before being referred to immigration. Once all their paperwork is completed and the relevant embassies and consulates are informed, the person is then deported.

Brig Gen bin Sahoo said illegal residents represent a social and economic risk and urged the public not to have any dealings with them.

People living outside of Sharjah's industrial areas welcomed the clampdown as they feared people who entered the country illegal had not been screened for diseases.

"They don't have papers so they can do anything," said Sidiqui Jalali.

"The bigger risk is most of them have not gone for the usual health tests required for a visa and they could have contagious diseases."

Street vendors selling food and drink in industrial areas also presented an bad image of the city, said Abu Hassan.

"Every time we stop at a traffic signal in that area there is at least one man selling nuts and juices or water coming to my car," he said.

"Once the traffic resumes they risk their lives crossing to other side of the road."

ykakande@thenational.ae