Diplomatic sources attribute phenomenon to the changing profile of Indians and fear of employment ban

Few Indians are queuing up to avail the two-month amnesty announced by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for all foreign nationals whose visas have expired.

“Around 2000 people only have so far sought out-passes in order to avail the amnesty,” said MK Lokesh, India’s ambassador to the UAE. In a conversation with The Hindu, Mr. Lokesh said that there were no visible signs so far that this trend would reverse.

The tepid response, so far, to amnesty that expires on February 4 or to regularise expired visas by paying a fine, contrasts with earlier occasions when Indians without proper documents, flooded airports to go home without paying a penalty. Around 40,000 Indians exited from the UAE in 2007 when an amnesty was last announced.

The majority of people who have approached Indian diplomatic missions in the UAE for out-passes belong to the South Indian States, especially Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala in that order.

Relatively more valid papers

Diplomatic sources said that the presence of fewer claimants for amnesty could be attributed to the changing profile of Indians. The number of residents who are without proper documents may have steeply dropped in recent years, compared to the past.

However, some analysts are of the view that fewer people are leaving as they soon expect a second construction boom to commence in the UAE, opening up fresh job opportunities that they can avail. The government of Abu Dhabi announced on Sunday that it would pump over $90 billion over the next five years in order to develop the emirate as a major world-class transport and communication hub. Earlier, the government of Dubai announced plans to build the world’s largest shopping mall in the city along with 100 new hotels, and a Universal Studios theme park— projects that would open up massive white and blue collar jobs in the construction sector.

The apprehension of an employment ban — once the amnesty seekers leave the country reinforced by the recording of biometric data by immigration authorities of those who exit — may also be dissuading many from leaving. “There is no employment ban for amnesty seekers right now, but some fear that a new order may later be passed that would bar their re-entry to the UAE even after fresh legal documentation has been acquired,” a diplomat said.

Middle-men make a killing

As the countdown for the expiration of the amnesty scheme begins, the ubiquitous middle-man has begun to make a killing. “My uncle’s visa has expired three years ago and the “dalal” [middle man] wants 17,000 Dirhams (Rs. 2,52,000) to pay the penalty and for arranging a new work visa,” says Ravi, a resident of Karimnagar district of Andhra Pradesh.

He points out that many are shelling out the cash in the hope that they would be able to recover the amount in less than a year, once their new job starts generating fresh income.

While UAE immigration authorities have opened up many sites, which amnesty seekers can directly approach, many needlessly employ middlemen who charge hefty sums to complete the final phase of formalities before their travel can commence.

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