Hundreds of amnesty seekers rushed to the nine amnesty centres across the country
Abu Dhabi/Dubai: Droves of amnesty seekers flocked to nine amnesty centres across the country on the first day of a three-month campaign to allow residents living illegally to settle their visa status or leave the country without any fines.
Residency officials reported brisk footfall throughout the day, as hundreds sought reprieve from immigration laws that require permanent residency visas for those living and working in the UAE.
In Abu Dhabi, a crowd formed early in the day at the amnesty centre behind the bus station in the Shahama neighbourhood, off the E11 Motorway.
Scores of men, women and children thronged the venue requesting an outpass to leave the country without paying fines.
Residents recounted their personal tales of hardship — including absconding from sponsors, overstaying 30-day visit visas and disputes with employers — to the Residency and Foreigners Affairs’ visa officers.
Saeed Salem Al Shamsi, executive director of Residency and Foreigners Affairs in Abu Dhabi, noted that it’s been “a very positive start of the initiative to make the country free from illegals. Officials helped each individual who came to the centre with instructions and guidelines that help speed up obtaining the outpass.”
Al Shamsi clarified that amnesty seekers who have unresolved court cases or traffic violations should first clear them and come back to the centre, to obtain an outpass or regularise their status.
“The three-month amnesty period is sufficient to resolve issues and regularise the status as per the rules and we are here to help them throughout the week from 8am to 8pm,” Al Shamsi said.
Dubai counters busy
A similar rush for was seen at the amnesty centre in Dubai on Wednesday. Major General Obaid Muhair Bin Surour, deputy director General of Dubai’s General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs (GDRFA), told Gulf News that the amnesty campaign is also part of Year of Zayed.
“We are ready to regularise the status of violators in our centres. Anyone who wants to return to his country can come to Al Aweer centre and leave without paying any fine,” Maj Gen Bin Surour said
Brigadier Khalaf Al Gaith, assistant director-general, Violators and Foreigners Follow-up Section in Dubai, said most applicants were visit-visa violators and domestic workers. “The average time to finish the procedure is between five to 10 minutes per person, depending on the applicant’s case. It is a golden opportunity for all violators,” Brigadier Al Gaith said.
He said that Al Aweer Centre is for people who want to leave the country with an outpass without paying any fines.
Others who want to renew their residency can go to Amer centers, while those who have absconding reports must go to GDRFA offices in Al Manara, Bin Suqat and Al Twar.
Brigadier Al Gaith said that amnesty seekers must have a valid passport or travel document, in order to modify their status.
“Amnesty seekers with lost passports need to contact their consulates to get a valid passport or a travel document if they want to leave. People should come early and not leave it for the last day.”
Brigadier Al Gaith said an outpass is valid for 21 days only.
Indians seek outpasses
Dozens of Indian applicants visited the main amnesty centre in Al Aweer, where their consulate opened a counter to facilitate amnesty seekers, as well as at the offices of BLS International, the outsourced agency which accepts outpass applications from those without a valid passport.
Indian labourers and housemaids who had previously taken outpasses from their consulate were the first to arrive at the main BLS Centre in Al Khaleej Centre in Dubai.
Prem Chand, consul for passport, attestation and community affairs and welfare, who is the nodal officer for amnesty, told Gulf News that it will take one day for applicants to receive their outpass from the consulate, once they submit their applications to with proper documents at the BLS centres.
Consul General of India in Dubai, Vipul, told Gulf News that Indian missions in the UAE have proposed to waive off the fees for outpass for amnesty seekers. “We are just waiting for the official approvals,” he said on Wednesday.
A Chinese national who arrived at Al Aweer at 5.40am received the first token for the women’s section. She had been overstaying in the UAE for two years and wished to go home.
In the men’s section, Filipino expatriate Rommel Trinidad Republica was the first amnesty seeker to receive an outpass on day one. “My problem is that I have overstayed and need to have my visa cancelled. My problem was solved within 15 minutes here at the Immigration,” he said.
Among the women, Ethiopian Sara Dereje, 25 — who overstayed for two years — was among the first to get an outpass. “The whole process — eye scan and biometrics — took probably 30 seconds. It was very easy and I was treated with respect. Thank you UAE. I will definitely come back,” she told Gulf News.
The consulates of India, the Philippines, Pakistan, Kenya, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, and Ethiopia had officials on hand at the centres, to attend to queries from their nationals.