x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 20 July 2017

Sharjah police arrest 100 suspected illegal immigrants

Dozens of suspected illegal immigrants were found hiding in buildings and labour accommodation sites that police said had been converted into secret hotels.

More than 100 people were arrested in Sharjah this week for allegedly breaking immigration laws, including entering the country illegally, the Ministry of Interior said yesterday. Police made the arrests in four raids over the past four days in several industrial areas. Dozens of suspected illegal immigrants were found hiding in buildings and labour accommodation sites that police said had been converted into secret hotels.

Two people were arrested on suspicion of "accommodating and employing" them, which carries a fine of Dh100,000 (US$27,225) and a minimum of two months in prison. A person who hires a foreigner whom he did not sponsor faces a fine of Dh50,000. The arrests are part of a nationwide campaign to clamp down on illegal immigration. On Saturday, 31 workers were arrested in a labour camp in the Sharjah industrial zone. They were found hiding in cabinets and inside a plastic barrel.

"Some people use buildings and establishments and turn them into secret hotels to those people," said Maj Gen Nasser al Minhali, the acting director of the Naturalisation and Residency Department. He said the arrests followed a tip that visa violators were staying in residential quarters in the industrial area. After verifying the information, a team raided the first site and arrested nine people, six of whom had allegedly entered the country illegally on foot. A man identified as M K was accused of providing accommodation for them in exchange for money.

Sixteen people were arrested in another site, 15 of whom were suspected of entering the country illegally by sea. In a confession, they said that NR provided accommodation. NR admitted to having rented two rooms in a workshop to a group of illegal immigrants for Dh1,600 per room per month. Fifty-seven suspects were arrested in three other raids. The raids are part of a wider campaign by the Ministry of Interior to curb illegal immigration. The latest wave was launched November 9, and 268 suspects were arrested in the first 10 days.

Police made surprise visits to areas where illegal immigrants are suspected to be living or working, such as construction sites, industrial areas and some streets inside the city. At the launch of the campaign, Gen al Minhali criticised those who accommodate or hire illegal immigrants, describing the practice as the trading of national interests for narrow self-interests and financial gains. Those who hire illegal immigrants, however, say these workers fill a useful void in the employment market because the process of bringing in workers from abroad is lengthy and expensive.

In September, 51 people suspected of working illegally were arrested in cafes and tailor shops in Abu Dhabi. A month earlier, 16 people were arrested on construction sites in Madinat Zayed. Between November 2007 and January this year, police arrested 25,313 suspected visa violators and illegal immigrants. Officials have repeatedly warned that anyone harbouring illegal immigrants will face the "toughest measures".

In June, an Emirati living in Bani Yas was sentenced to two months in jail and fined Dh900,000 for housing nine illegal immigrants. hhassan@thenational.ae