x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Illegal workers in UAE line up for flights home

Illegal workers tell tales of trying to gain amnesty so they can go home, with hopes of returning one day to the UAE.

Amnesty seekers at the Musaffah immigration office which has been opened specially to receive applications from illegal immigrants wanting to leave the UAE.
Amnesty seekers at the Musaffah immigration office which has been opened specially to receive applications from illegal immigrants wanting to leave the UAE.

ABU DHABI // Susanty has not seen her children in almost three years.

Yesterday the Indonesian took steps to remedy that situation.

Susanty, 27, was one of many expatriates turning up at embassies, trying to receive emergency certificates to travel home during the Government's two-month amnesty, ending on January 4, for those in the country illegally.

She fled from her sponsor just five months after arriving, citing low wages, overwork and mistreatment.

"Since two-and-half-years I am living in the Emirates. I spent five months with the sponsor's house then ran away," Susanty said.

"The treatment of the sponsor's wife and children was not good to me. I was very unhappy and used to weep most of the time."

Susanty was lucky to find work with another family.

"Now I am working with an American family in Dubai and they pay Dh2,000 a month and provide food, accommodation, a day off in a week and everything I need. They are very good."

She said her previous sponsor paid her only Dh800 a month, and sometimes less.

"I have been waiting for the amnesty to travel back to my home country legally," Susanty said. She hoped to return to the UAE legally.

After the deadline, illegal workers face fines of Dh100 a day.

Another Indonesian woman, I Naila, has been in the UAE for three and a half years but stayed with her original sponsor for only one month.

She said her employer did not give her breaks and she slept only two hours a night.

"He paid me Dh800 a month," Ms Naila said.

She worked in Dubai, then Sharjah, then back to Dubai.

"Now I want to live and work on legal status," she said.

Ms Naila said she reported her employer's behaviour. "The police said you go and work," she said. "When you have money, go to your embassy and return to your country."

Salman Al Farisi, the Indonesian ambassador, said so far 175 citizens had benefited from the amnesty.

"So far there has been good response from the Indonesian community and as the days advances towards the deadline more people will turn up," Mr Al Farisi said.

"Some 10,000 Indonesians are expected to turn up during the two-month amnesty period. We anticipate that around 3,000 will come up to the embassy."

He said he hoped that people who had already received passes from the mission would spread the word to their compatriots. There are 79,000 Indonesians in the country.

Some people from other countries have been shuttling between their country's missions and the voluntary departure immigration centre in Mussaffah, trying to obtain clearance permits to travel home.

Babul, 28, a Bangladeshi, obtained his pass from the embassy, but was turned away at the Mussaffah centre because he did not have a passport and visa copy.

Babul said his passport was taken by the men who brought him to Abu Dhabi on a visit visa and pushed him to work on farms. He fled.

He has managed to survive without documents for three years, on between Dh10 and Dh15 a day.

"I have never been caught by the police," Babul said.

He said the agents who brought him out assured him his visa would come but he never received it.

"I don't know where they have gone. I am a poor person and don't have money, please help me," he said.

"I went inside immigration with the embassy paper but officials denied to give me clearance. They ask for passport or visa copies. I told them I don't have anything. I don't find work here. I am very troubled here."

Mohammed Tanveer, 24, has spent four years in the country, three of them illegally. The Pakistani's passport was seized at the airport.

"I worked with a sponsor for a year who paid me Dh1,200, then I fled due to paltry wages," Mr Tanveer said. Police arrested him twice in Dubai but released him.

He finally received clearance papers from immigration and is going home at the end of the month.

"I am very happy to meet my parents after four years," Mr Tanveer said.

anwar@thenational.ae