//Illegal and homeless, workers stay on to pay off home debts

Illegal and homeless, workers stay on to pay off home debts

By Sunita Menon , Gulf News, 03/11/2006 12:00 AM  (UAE)

Dubai: There are many Indian workers who remain in the UAE even after obtaining an official outpass from the consulate, Gulf News has learnt.

Holding an outpass valid for three months, labourers seek to earn more money during this period and ultimately remain here, leading to complications.

"I have got an outpass to go home but I have decided to stay back for a couple of months more before travelling back home," said a worker who works as a daily wager at various construction sites in Dubai. "I came to the UAE paying Rs80,000 for a visit a year back. Despite several attempts I failed to land a proper job and ended up being an illegal," he said.

An outpass, which is also known as emergency certificate is issued to illegal immigrants with no travel documents.

"It is also issued to people to have lost their passport and needs to travel to India on emergency," said a consulate official.

According to him instances are quite rare when an illegal immigrant approaches the consulate for outpass renewal.

"Prior to issuing an outpass we make it very clear that the applicant must submit some kind of document that would establish him or her to be an Indian national. The identification papers could be a voting card, a ration card etc," said the official.

An expired outpass is extended for another three months after thorough interrogation of the applicant.

A labourer who continues to stay in the UAE with a valid outpass "is an illegal", said an official.

"The individual has to approach the immigration for clearance after we issue him with an outpass," he said.

"If during this period the illegal immigrant is caught by the police, his travel documents are processed by the authorities on the valid outpass that he carries on him. If the outpass is expired the authorities refer the matter to us," the official said.

Asked what if the labourer fails to travel even after his outpass validity is extended the official said: "We issue a fresh one after making sure that he does not dodge us as well as the authorities again."

Another worker who picks up odd jobs and sleeps in the Satwa bus stand carries a expired outpass issued during the amnesty in 2003.

"I was scared that I would be caught and jailed by the police. I came to the UAE in 2000 on a visit visa. I lost my passport and my luggage got stolen. I was employed part-time a in lot of places and across the emirate.

"I have managed to save Dh1,800 and wanted to earn a bit more before I go back on a fresh outpass," he added.

Asked what if he is caught by the police, the worker said: "Then the police will send me back home. I do not have to worry to go and provide explanations to the consulate officials as to why I did not leave the country."

Four other labourers carrying expired outpass, said they want to go home but risk staying back than face the unpaid debts they have incurred back home.

460 outpasses issued this year

    * An outpass (left) costs Dh20.
    * The consulate issues outpass free of charge in circumstances when an illegal immigrant is jailed or in hospital.
    * It is valid for three months and can be extended for another three months.
    * Number of outpasses issued by the consulate in 2003 is 13,632 of which 13,050 were issued during the amnesty period which lasted from January to June.
    * In 2004 about 607 outpasses were issued, while in 2005 the number rose to 1,913.
    * In the first two months of this year about 460 outpasses were issued.