As the amnesty declared by the UAE for illegal migrants ends tomorrow, the Bangladesh embassy in Abu Dhabi has directed its illegal expatriates to avail themselves of the opportunity.
The two-month amnesty programme began on December 4 last year to allow the overstaying foreigners to either leave the country without penalty or regularise their visas.
“We have directed the overstaying Bangladeshis to return home or regularise their visas under the amnesty,” said Mohammad Nazmul Quanine, Bangladesh ambassador to the UAE.
In November last year, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) government declared the general amnesty, the fourth in its history.
This time around, the total number of Bangladeshi amnesty-seekers may not cross 25,000, though the figure was around 40,500 in 2007, Nazmul told the Gulf News.
In a statement, the Bangladesh mission directed its overstaying nationals to collect travel permits from its Abu Dhabi office or consulate in Dubai.
Meanwhile, Expatriates' Welfare and Overseas Employment Minister Khandaker Mosharraf Hossain has urged the illegal Bangladeshis to accept the amnesty, reported a private television channel.
“If the illegal Bangladeshis don't take the opportunity, the UAE labour market might be closed for our country for long,” he added.
At present, around seven lakh Bangladeshis are employed in the UAE.
In the 12 months up to September last year, the Arab country recruited around 2,20,000 Bangladeshis. Since then there has been no fresh recruitment.
The government is cautious about avoiding any further trouble with the illegal Bangladeshi migrants after the expiry of the amnesty deadline, Zafar Ahmed Khan, expatriates' welfare and overseas employment secretary, told The Daily Star.
Foreigners become illegal in the UAE for violation of various immigration rules and regulations. Failing to accept the amnesty, illegal migrants will be treated as criminals, reported Gulf News quoting sources in the Ministry of Interior (MoI).
Only those people who have overstayed their visas can benefit from this period, while the others who have illegally entered the country will be treated as criminals, added the report.
The UAE government has urged its residents to report visa violators to the MoI upon expiry of the amnesty period tomorrow.
The ministry through a statement has launched a campaign to encourage reporting of such violations.
By mid-January, more than 10,000 illegal residents have availed themselves of the amnesty and left the country.
Ten amnesty centres in the UAE by that period have also received more than 25,000 applications from illegal residents of 106 countries.
The UAE fines an offender Dirham 25 a day for overstaying his visa.
Nearly 3,42,000 illegal migrants took advantage of the amnesty in 2007 by either regularising their visas or leaving the country.