In search of greener pastures, Nigerians in significant numbers have been landing in Dubai, one of the most populous cities in the United Arab Emirates over a decade only to find dashed hopes forcing them into a new reality of economic hardship.
Most of these victims are now either undocumented or have overstayed their Visa, they invariably have had only the most basic education and are left with poor employment opportunities and as such have no economic power to sponsor their trips back home.
Apart from the seeming hardship Covid-19 brought to these set of Nigerians abroad, their situation took another terrible turn after the United Arab Emirates on July 21, 2020, issued Nigerians whose visas have expired to leave the country before August 17, 2020, or face the wrath of the law.
Speaking with TheNewsGuru(TNG), some of the affected Nigerians disclosed that they couldn’t afford the evacuation fee.
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Hammed Sherifdeen who works at a Filipino restaurant as a waiter, said his salary is AED 1300 (About N161,000) but he lost the job.
He furthered, “I only get two months salary out of four months I used to work for them, and I realized they my Visa was not done last year December, the shop went bankrupt they closed the place since last year December, and since then I have been squatting around, sleeping at bus station sometimes and there’s no help from anybody. I can’t even feed well I just need help to go back to my country”
Another contract staff who identifies himself simply as James said, “Things are now very difficult for us here, we hardly get our salaries paid on time, for me, I can’t afford the evacuation fee, I can only appeal to the Nigerian government to come to our aid.
“For four months now that Covid-19 pressure started, I have not received any salary from my employer, myself and several other Nigerians are now living in fear, we have contacted the embassy for evacuation but the amount required is too expensive.”
TNG gathered that prospective evacuees in the UAE are expected to purchase their one-way tickets back to Nigeria at a cost of $672 for economy class and $1,370 for business class (In AED Economy is 2450AED and Business is 5000 AED).
Reacting to the ultimatum in a statement, the Nigerian Embassy in the Emirates urged affected citizens to immediately submit their papers for emigration processing.
The embassy advised concerned nationals to join the evacuation flights arranged from the country before the expiration of the grace period.
“The Embassy wishes to inform that the government of the United Arab Emirates has granted waivers on fines/penalties on visas that expired before 1st March 2020 to leave the country on or before 17th of August 2020,” the statement reads.
“Consequently, the Embassy is urging fellow Nigerians living in the UAE to avail themselves of this opportunity to return home with the impending Air Peace evacuation flight scheduled for 1st August 2020, and or subsequent Emirates evacuation flights before the expiration of the grace period,” it adds.
Some have alleged that the UAE harsh directive is connected to the fraudulent activities perpetrated by a few Nigerians based in Dubai including alleged international internet fraudster Abass Ramon aka Hushpuppi who was arrested by the Dubai Police in June and is being prosecuted in the US.
Amongst other moves, the UAE authorities recently excluded Nigeria from a list of countries permitted to fly into the Emirates.