Indian associations flooded with enquiries from amnesty-seekers

Dubai: Indian associations and welfare groups in Dubai and the northern emirates have started receiving hundreds of enquiries from visa overstayers anxious to make use of the amnesty in the UAE that begins on Wednesday.

Top diplomats at the Indian consulate in Dubai urged the associations and community volunteers to collect specific details about those eligible for amnesty during a meeting held to discuss amnesty-related matters at the mission on Friday evening.

“We have asked them to send us the specific details of amnesty-seekers through the help desk we have set up in the consulate. Once they forward the details, we will proceed as per the guidance of local authorities,” Sumathi Vasudev, acting Consul General of India in Dubai, told Gulf News.

The community groups were also urged to help undocumented Indians in getting police clearances in cases where they were eligible to do so.

Though the community groups and volunteers will be helping with the collection of details of amnesty-seekers, all applications related to emergency travel certificates — or out-passes — and passports for them will continue to be accepted at the offices of the outsourcing agency BLS International, said Prem Chand, consul for passport, attestation and community affairs and welfare, who has been appointed as the nodal officer for handling matters pertaining to the amnesty.

“BLS has offered to assign more employees to deal with amnesty cases. We will see the option of setting up additional facilities if there is any need,” Chand said.

Apart from the mission’s hotline and help desk, officials said amnesty-seekers can call the 24×7 hotline of the Indian Workers’ Resource Centre besides the amnesty helplines and help desks set up by community associations.

Though hundreds of enquiries have already been received, quite a few of them have been found to be ineligible to benefit from the amnesty scheme since it cannot be availed by those who have legal cases pending against them, representatives of community groups told Gulf News.

Families and financial cases

In Dubai, the Kerala Muslim Cultural Centre (KMCC) has registered details of about 150 amnesty-seekers.

“Most of them are eligible. There are a few people who have financial cases. But they are trying to settle them soon. We have also received cases of a few families where women and children also got stuck due to financial cases involving men,” said a representative handling the amnesty help desk at KMCC.

The Indian Association Sharjah (IAS) has registered details of about 110 amnesty-seekers. Five to eight of the enquiries were from families and a few were from female workers who were duped by agents, said Mohammad Jabir, the acting president of the association.

“We have not seen the kind of rush that we used to see in the previous amnesties yet. I believe the numbers would be less this time. But we are expecting the numbers to go up soon, especially when the amnesty begins,” he added.

Roop Sidhu, general secretary of Indian Association Ajman, said that most of the nearly 30 enquiries received by the association were from visa overstayers from other emirates.

“We have directed them to respective emirates from where their previous visas were issued. We also received cases where people including women had financial cases against them.”

He said the association has printed out leaflets with frequently asked questions about the amnesty in different languages to spread awareness. “We are distributing it near the bus stand and other areas frequented by illegal workers.”

In Ras Al Khaimah, the Indian Relief Committee (IRC) has received about 50 enquiries, said advocate A. Najumudeen, general secretary.

“But most of them have cheque or loan cases. We could register only 32 people,” he said.

Though the rest of the cases were rejected, Najumudeen said his organisation is working with those applicants to help resolve their issues. “We are guiding them to tackle the legal issues and get release letters. We are also helping them with labour and immigrations issues, especially in the cases of wives and children who have been stuck here because of the financial cases of the husband.”

Three families have already registered their details with the committee to return home, he said.

“Most of the families who are contacting us have similar stories to say. Husbands are in jail or are hiding due to fear of arrest. Some couldn’t renew visas as their trade licences expired. Some of their children have either stopped going to school or have dues in school fees. We are trying to repatriate such families with the help of our consulate.”

IRC convened a meeting of about 50 Indian welfare associations and cultural groups on Saturday night to form an amnesty committee with 101 members. The committee will support those who looking to seek amnesty.

“Since many visa violators are not likely to have access to mainstream media, we will take the effort to spread the word about amnesty by visiting labour-centric areas and other residential areas in remote places in Ras Al Khaimah,” said Najumudeen.

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