x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Raid on immigrant 'den' sees Sharjah arrests

Three men are in custody over 31 illegal immigrants allegedly charged Dh200 a month each to share a tiny flat.

A Ministry of Interior photo shows the room in Sharjah where men who allegedly entered the UAE hidafter walking over the RAK mountains
A Ministry of Interior photo shows the room in Sharjah where men who allegedly entered the UAE hidafter walking over the RAK mountains

ABU DHABI // Three men were arrested in Sharjah yesterday on suspicion of housing 31 illegal immigrants. They allegedly charged the men Dh200 (US$55) a month each to share a tiny flat that officials described as a "den". The men living there had sneaked into the country on foot, crossing the nearby mountains, according to Maj Gen Nasser al Minhali, the acting director of the Naturalisation and Residency Department.

The three suspects were identified only as JKH, 34; AA, 42; and BF, 53. "They agreed among themselves to charge each one of those infiltrators Dh200 in return for housing them in a house that looked like a den, with zero safety and health conditions," Gen al Minhali said. The arrests are part of an aggressive inspection campaign by the Ministry of Interior to curb illegal immigration. Police launched a raid on the apartment in the industrial area of Sharjah while the men there were asleep. Most of the immigrants arrested were unemployed.

Gen al Minhali criticised what he called the trading of national interests for "narrow" self-interests and financial gains. He warned that anyone trying to undermine the security of the country by harbouring illegal immigrants would face "the toughest measures" allowed by law. "Such inspection campaigns and raids will continue day and night as an effort to enforce the immigration laws," he said. Col Said al Rashidi, the head of the directorate that tracks foreigners who violate immigration laws, said his officers were stepping up their regular and surprise inspections in all areas and around the clock.

"The campaigns will continue regularly and as sudden raids, at all times and places against those who infiltrate and violate the laws, and whoever employ and help the violators in whatever manner, shape or form," he said. "We will also chase any groups or individuals who employ them or use them or encourage them to violate the law or anyone who takes part in that." Col al Rashidi called on landlords and owners of businesses and residential buildings to ensure that their tenants had the documentation necessary to stay in the country. Landlords face legal action if their tenants are illegal.

The penalty for hiring or housing an illegal immigrant is a fine of Dh100,000 and a minimum of two months in prison. A person who hires a foreigner whom he or she did not sponsor faces a fine of Dh50,000. An official with a social services organisation said such immigrants flock to the UAE because of higher wages and better opportunities. Because they cannot be employed legally, the official said, they might turn to crime to earn money.

The police said the arrests were part of a wider national inspection campaign called Sahim - share - launched by the directorate to follow up on immigration violations. The campaign's first wave was launched on Monday. Although the efforts began in Abu Dhabi, they will be extended to the whole of the country "soon", officials said. On Monday, 174 people were arrested - 130 for violating immigration laws and 44 for "infiltrating" the country.

In September, immigration inspectors arrested 51 people working illegally in Abu Dhabi. They were arrested when two teams from the Department of Naturalisation and Residency visited premises that included cafes and tailors, according to the state news agency, WAM. A month earlier, 16 people were arrested in raids on construction sites in Madinat Zayed. Many of those detained did not have the correct visas or were working for companies that were not their original sponsors.

@Email:hhassan@thenational.ae