The national ID card programme is straining to deal with half a million people trying to meet the Dec 31 deadline.
ID card registration strain
The national ID card programme is straining to deal with half a million people trying to meet the Dec 31 deadline, its project manager said yesterday. Thamer al Qasemi of the Emirates Identity Authority blamed government employees and Emiratis for creating crowds by not registering earlier on in the year. He said their inaction had led to problems for everyone. "You say that Emirates ID cannot handle 600,000 people now; I agree. I agree totally, it's not logical," he said. "According to our plans that we put together and the timing of our announcements since late summer, we were capable if people respected the law. "I feel it is not the fault of those who are coming now, but of the nationals who are not registered or those who work for government agencies. They are now creating crowds and taking the slot of somebody else in another category. We have been here since 2006 trying to register nationals, but it is not until somebody tells them they could be fined that they come. "We have a complete strategic team to plan for this. It's not just a game - it is not someone coming and just announcing that tomorrow we want to do this. "There is a whole team working on this, taking it very seriously, trying to make it as easy as possible. Such announcements existed since the late summer and nobody showed up. We did understand the numbers, we had the capacity every month, we knew that we could handle this but people came in at the last minute. It's their responsibility not ours." "We cannot hire thousands more people and pay them a salary because people are late," Mr Qasemi said. Emiratis, who have been able to register since 2006, face Dh1,000 fines if they do not obtain ID cards by Jan 1. Expatriate professionals, including most residents with university degrees, without cards will not be fined until 2010, but have been told that they will not be able to access most government services, including health care, after Dec 31 this year. Mr Qasemi said there was no plan to extend the deadline, but said it might be reviewed closer to the time. "We are not at all in a panic situation. We are going forward and we will see the facts towards the end of the year. For now we are sticking to the deadline and we will see how many we have registered and how many are left." The deadline for Emiratis has been in place for some time. However, it became common knowledge only last month that expatriate professionals would be denied access to services if they missed the same deadline. Mr Qasemi said some Arabic media outlets had been told of the change towards the end of the summer, but the EIDA was under no obligation to make announcements in other languages and that it was the responsibility of every resident to be aware of the country's laws. "We live in the United Arab Emirates. We are going to stand by the directions of the President that this is the year of nationalism for this country and our main language is Arabic." firstname.lastname@example.org