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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 16 December 2018

Sharp rise in Dubai visa overstays

Immigration department says fine reductions and pardons issued as it takes sympathetic approach

Officials said 11,000 people applied to a special 'humanitarian committee' that looks at the reasons for breaching immigration rules. Andrew Parsons / The National
Officials said 11,000 people applied to a special 'humanitarian committee' that looks at the reasons for breaching immigration rules. Andrew Parsons / The National

Dubai's immigration department said about 25,000 people have overstayed their residency visa so far this year - more than twice the total in 2016 - with many hit by fines running into tens of thousands of dirhams.

Job losses and illnesses were among the common reasons for individuals and families having their visa cancelled but continuing to live in the country.

The General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs (GDRFA), which released the latest figures on Monday, said that while some people attempt to work illegally in the country, it was sympathetic to those in "harsh situations that are beyond their control". About 12,000 cases were recorded in 2016.

Officials said 11,000 people applied to a special "humanitarian committee" that looks at the reasons for breaches of immigration rules. In 9,000 of those cases, it reduced the fine amount or cancelled it altogether.

“Sometimes, people experience harsh situations that are beyond their control. We have to listen to them and consider these conditions,” said Maj Gen Mohammed Al Marri, director general of the GDRFA.

“We give an opportunity for illegal residents to come to the department to apply for a pardon and acquire information about the procedures that they need to follow, to remove the fines against them and renew their residential visas."

The department's humanitarian centre looks at the appeal cases and weighs up the situation that non legal residents are in, including if they are from a country where there is conflict, and financial problems they may have.

Dozens of people were at the centre on Monday, looking to appeal.

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Umm Anees, from Algeria, was among them. She declined to give her full name but said her husband's visa expired in March, meaning the couple and their four children had to leave the UAE.

“My husband was fired from his work, and we suffer from financial problems," she told said.

"I and my four children have been living in the country illegally for seven months. Two of my children are enrolled in school and the other two are studying in university.”

“I applied to the humanitarian case centre in June as I couldn’t pay the fines. At that time, I had little money saved but I had to pay my rent."

Captain Khalid Al Hamadi, head of the humanitarian case section, said that the family's case would be looked at, but he could not say whether they would be successful.

Ali Jaber, 36, from Pakistan, was also at the centre. He owes Dh50,000 in fines having been living in the UAE with his wife for about 18 months.

“I've lived in the country for seven years but I lost my job a year and a half ago and couldn’t renew our residency visas. I have financial problems and I am ill. I suffer from epilepsy and my medicine costs Dh700 every month,” said Mr Jaber.

“I recently managed to renewed my residency visa, but couldn’t do the same for my family. Fines of more than Dh50,000 were imposed on my family members."

He said he has seven children aged between 4 and 16.

Dinesh Kumar, first secretary at the Indian embassy, said that such cases are common.

He said the number of Indian nationals approaching the embassy for residency visa issues has increased this year.

“More Indian expats are experiencing issues with residential visas in 2017. Some of their employers have left the country [without cancelling their visa, leaving them stuck] while others lost their jobs for different reasons,” said Mr Kumar.

“We try to help expats who overstay and provide them with as much help as we can."