x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Lukewarm response to amnesty for illegal UAE Indians

Less than 250 emergency certificates have been issued by Indian embassy officials in first week of visa amnesty.

DUBAI // Indian officials yesterday said the response to the visa amnesty for illegal residents has been slow, with fewer than 250 applying for emergency certificates in the first week.

“The initial response has been lukewarm with 40 to 50 people approaching daily,” said MK Lokesh, the Indian ambassador. He hopes the number seeking amnesty will remain low. “I don’t want my country to be known as the land of illegal immigrants.

However, we are prepared to meet the demand.”

The Government announced that illegal residents who have overstayed their visas or residency permits can leave the country from December 4 without being fined. After February 4, they will face penalties of Dh100 a day for visa offences and Dh25 a day for residency offences.

During a previous amnesty in 2007, an estimated 50,000 Indians left the country while another 36,000 legalised their status.

Mr Lokesh said he had met with Indian airlines to discuss taking people home. “Even though December and January are peak periods, they said they will be able to offer additional flights.”

The ambassador anticipates “bottlenecks” at immigration facilities because there are only 10 centres for all nationalities.

“The embassy would see how we can facilitate in coordination with immigration authorities. We’ll be in touch to see what they can do if there is a rush in the last stages.”

pkannan@thenational.ae