x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Sri Lankans slow to respond to UAE amnesty offer, officials say

About 500 emergency certificates have been issued by the Sri Lankan consulate in Dubai, mostly for women working illegally as domestic help or cleaners in the country.

Officials at the Sri Lankan consulate in Dubai say they have been issuing about 30 certificates a day since the amnesty for illegal workers was declared. Sarah Dea / The National
Officials at the Sri Lankan consulate in Dubai say they have been issuing about 30 certificates a day since the amnesty for illegal workers was declared. Sarah Dea / The National

DUBAI // About 500 emergency certificates have been issued by the Sri Lankan consulate in Dubai, mostly to women working illegally as domestic helpers or cleaners.

The mission has been issuing about 30 certificates every day since the amnesty for illegal workers was declared, officials said.

They expect this number to double before the amnesty deadline in 27 days.

“We expected more people to come,” said Abdul Raheem, Sri Lankan consul general yesterday. “The number is less than our expectations. But more people usually come towards the end because they want to stay longer and earn as much money.”

During the 2007 visa amnesty, the consulate issued nearly 4,000 out passes – the document illegal workers require to leave.

Mr Raheem said the slow response could be because there were fewer people in the country illegally. He added that the consulate had raised awareness about the two-month amnesty through the Sri Lankan media and charity workers in the UAE.
“We encourage people to leave the country instead of facing illegal action,” he said.

Yesterday, a number of Sri Lankans went to the consulate to apply for temporary passports or emergency certificates.

One of them, Das Malliga, 42, was a repeat offender.

“I had come to work for a sponsor in Fujairah about 10 years ago,” she said. “But there were too many kids and very little time to rest, so I left their house.

“I worked for other people without a visa and left on an out pass five years back.”

Mrs Malliga returned to the UAE three years ago on a visit visa and has been working as part-time help in several homes. She hopes to return to the UAE with a legal sponsor.

“I plan to go back home and return. I want to legalise my status,” Mrs Malliga said. “I have found a sponsor. The salary will be slightly lower than what I earned working part-time but it is better that way.”

Thambiraja Vigneshwari, 37, wanted to go back to her country for good.

“I was working with a cleaning company but left a year back because the salary was very low,” she said. “My children want me to come back to them. I don’t plan to return.”

One illegal resident is hoping to return to the UAE because life is not easy back in Sri Lanka.

“I need money,” said Deepika Sumali, 30, who was employed as a garment worker but left because of low pay. “In Sri Lanka there are too many problems. It’s better here.”

pkannan@thenational.ae