Firms still break­ing thelaw on­visa fees

Work­ers pay­ing thou­sands for per­mits

7 Days in Dubai - - FRONT PAGE - By Sar­wat Nasir @Sar­watNasir

Hun­dreds of work­ers des­per­ate to land jobs in the UAE are be­ing forced by em­ploy­ers to pay for their own visas, run­ning up debts of thou­sands of dirhams in the process.

That’s de­spite the prac­tice be­ing il­le­gal in the emi­rates.

Ac­cord­ing to a re­port by the In­ter­na­tional Labour Or­gan­i­sa­tion (ILO), hun­dreds of Pak­istani work­ers are pay­ing an av­er­age of $2,358 (Dhs8,660) to mi­grate to the UAE, with three quar­ters (77 per cent) of that figure go­ing on the cost of a visa alone.

The ILO sur­veyed nearly 1,000 Pak­istani work­ers in Saudi Ara­bia and the UAE and found 620 were forced by their em­ploy­ers to pay for their visas.

7DAYS spoke to sev­eral work­ers who said they were made to pay for their own visas, bor­row­ing money off “excited” friends and family to fund the fee and their cost to travel to the UAE.

What they didn’t know is that what their em­ploy­ers are do­ing is il­le­gal.

The Min­istry of Hu­man Re­sources and Emi­rati­sa­tion told 7DAYS that firms who do this risk fines of Dhs20,000 and a ban from is­su­ing work per­mits.

“Re­cruit­ment agen­cies and of­fices can­not ask em­ploy­ees for any re­cruit­ment fees,” the min­istry said in a state­ment.

“There­fore the em­ployer should cover all the fees and re­cruit­ment ex­penses.

“In ad­di­tion, the em­ployer is re­spon­si­ble for the air­line tick­ets [to repa­tri­ate the per­son] once the em­ployee’s con­tract comes to an end.”

One worker told 7DAYS that he was un­aware that the prac­tice was il­le­gal, but that he paid the fee be­cause he was so keen to get the job.

“I wish I had known we are not re­quired to pay it but I think if I hadn’t paid it the com­pany would’ve hired some­one else in­stead of me,” Ar­shad, 34, said.

“We were all very excited when I got the job in Dubai.”

Ar­shad had dreams of mov­ing to Dubai in the hope of earn­ing more money so he could sup­port his family in Pak­istan.

Last year, he paid more than Dhs5,000 for his UAE visa to come to work for a con­struc­tion firm in the emi­rate.

The 34-year-old Pak­istani bor­rowed the money from his rel­a­tives and friends, which he is still pay­ing back.

What Ar­shad didn’t know is that, legally, his em­ployer is re­quired to cover the costs of his visa and can be fined up to Dhs20,000 for mak­ing him pay, as well as the pos­si­bil­ity of be­ing banned from is­su­ing new work per­mits.

Ar­shad is one of many Pak­istani work­ers in the UAE who are un­aware that their em­ploy­ers are re­quired to pay for their visas.

A re­port by the In­ter­na­tional Labour Or­gan­i­sa­tion, which sur­veyed nearly 1,000 labour­ers, said that 620 Pak­istani work­ers are pay­ing an av­er­age of $2,358 (Dhs8,660) to mi­grate to the UAE, 77 per cent of that cost is for visas.

Ar­shad, who sup­ports his wife and three chil­dren, plus his par­ents, back in Pak­istan, said: “My com­pany pays me only Dhs1,200 per month and I’ve been send­ing what I can back to the peo­ple I owe money to.

“They think I earn a lot just be­cause I am work­ing in a city like Dubai, so they ex­pect me to re­turn all of it as soon as pos­si­ble. But they don’t know the re­al­ity.”

An­other Pak­istani worker, Ali, also moved to Dubai last year and paid the same amount as Ar­shad to come to work in the emi­rate. Ali, 27, said he did not know that the em­ployer is re­quired to cover the visa cost.

“I’m still pay­ing back my friends that I bor­rowed money from. They keep go­ing over to my family’s house in Pak­istan and ha­rass­ing them for the money,” Ali said.

The Min­istry of Hu­man Re­sources and Emi­rati­sa­tion said the fines for such vi­o­la­tions are Dhs20,000 and em­ploy­ers could be banned from is­su­ing new work per­mits.

The state­ment said: “The Min­istry of Hu­man Re­sources and Emi­rati­sa­tion stresses in this re­gard that the UAE legislature was clear and ex­plicit that em­ploy­ers must meet ex­penses or fees.”

The Min­istry called on any­one forced to pay for their own visa to con­tact them.

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