Monday, December 10, 2012

Outpass fees for Indian amnesty seekers may be waived

Outpass fees for Indian amnesty seekers may be waived

Ambassador asks Indian government to scrap Dh60 charge for amnesty seekers

Dubai: Illegal Indian residents applying for a UAE amnesty to exit the country without immigration fines or legal action may have the application fee waived under a new proposal by the Indian ambassador to the UAE. M. K. Lokesh said on Sunday he has formally requested the Indian government to waive the Dh60 charge for the “Emergency Exit Certificate,” informally called “outpass,” needed to exit the UAE under the amnesty. The amnesty lasts from December 4 to February 3 for all nationalities, and each nation’s foreign missions charge separately for the outpass. “I’ve written to my government to consider waving off the fee… Once the Government of India agrees, there could be relief,” he said during a press conference at the India Club in Dubai on Sunday. “The decision will come hopefully soon. It can take time, there are procedures in place.” There is an additional Dh9 service fee charged by outsourced company BLS that handles Indian passport and visa applications. There are also optional “value added services” like form-filling and on-site photography services. Lokesh said: “We’ve asked them (BLS) to reduce this for amnesty seekers by 30 per cent.” He added that during the last amnesty in 2007, “90 to 95 per cent of them (applicants) traveled at their own cost, each (air) ticket cost about Dh1,000… This time we expect 90 per cent of them to bear their own airfare.” Lokesh said financial assistance for those who cannot afford to be repatriated was an ongoing effort of the Indian missions even outside the amnesty. “We’ll try to help the destitute, we’re already helping them on a daily basis… The (Indian) civil aviation has been informed of this (amnesty) and maybe they’re going to give ticket concessions. And I’m also trying generally with Indian airlines.” Last amnesty, about 1,200 air tickets were arranged for applicants, he added. “Ultimately, only the deserving ones will get it.” Lokesh said that those being repatriated under the amnesty may be allowed to return to the UAE in the future. “We (Indian embassy in UAE) haven’t got anything in writing from local (UAE) authorities, but they’ve said there’s no formal ban. Formally, they haven’t told us there won’t be any ban,” Lokesh said. Last amnesty, about 46,000 Emergency Certificates were issued by the Indian missions in the UAE, Lokesh said. “We issue the travel document called Emergency Certificate, we don’t know how many people actually left.” This year, more than 220 Indians have applied so far. When asked how many applicants are expected this year, Lokesh said: “I can’t be speculative – hopefully less than last time. The initial response has been lukewarm, only about 30-50 people daily. In the final stages, more people may come… The bottlenecks may be the immigration centres – they also issue their own outpass – at the last minute, but there aren’t so many Indians there right now.” There are 14 BLS and Indian community group centres where amnesty seekers can apply in the UAE, he added. “There are 1.75 million to 2,000,000 Indian people here, depending on where you get your figures from. Indian’s are law abiding, their role here is appreciated. Some of them have become illegal residents due to some unforeseen reasons beyond their control.” For verification, Indian applicants who don’t have a valid passport or visa copy details can present their Indian ration or voter card, Indian driving licence or details for relatives and their address in India. “Even with a proper name and date of birth, in cases we’re able to find out from our records if they’re Indian citizens,” he said. After securing an outpass from their embassy or consulate, or the outsourced service provider, amnesty applicants have to approach any of 10 immigration centres handling the official pardon programme in the UAE.

My comments as follows: 

It's a pity that this kind act was thought about after other countries did so to their nationals. Any requirement or actions for non-resident Indians are always a source of revenue for the government and it happened in this case of amnesty too. Let all good actions and thoughts initiate proactively from our legislators and government representatives.

Ramesh Menon, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

To read it in original, please visit GULF NEWS Online.

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