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November 26, 2020

UAE temporarily halts visas for 13 countries

Top Story

November 26, 2020

ISLAMABAD: In a surprise move, the UAE has also suspended all work visas for Pakistanis. Director General Bureau of Emigration and Overseas Employment (BEOE) Kashif Noor when contacted told The News that the Foreign Office has already spoken about this step. He said that the UAE's visa suspension is Covid-19 related, applies to many other countries and is therefore not Pakistan-specific.

However, former PPP Senator Enver Baig, whose family has been involved in the human resource export business since 1943, told this correspondent that the ban on work visas by the UAE is indeed Pakistan-specific. Baig said that the ban was imposed on November 19 and no reason has been given by the UAE authorities.

On the other hand, the DG Bureau of Emigration and Overseas Employment was of the view that the UAE had suspended all kinds of visas, including work visas, for 20 countries includingPakistan. However, the Foreign Office spokesman had recently talked about the suspension of visit visas only.

According to Baig, this is a serious situation for Pakistan. He demanded that the prime minister and army chief intervene and take this matter up with the UAE authorities at the highest level.

On Wednesday, the Foreign Office spokesman Zahid Hafeez had said that the United Arab Emirates has temporarily suspended the issuance of visit visas to a dozen countries, including Pakistan, until further notice.

The decision by the UAE authorities, he said, was "believed to be related to the second wave of Covid-19". He added: "We are seeking official confirmation from the concerned UAE authorities in this regard.”

The development was also confirmed by Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) spokesperson Abdullah Hafeez, who said that written instructions had not been issued to the airline so far. He said that people holding an iqama, transit and work visas were still being allowed entry into the UAE.

While Baig concedes that workers holding work visas are still allowed entry into the UAE, he says no new work visas are being issued to Pakistanis with effect from November 19.

Annual home remittances from the UAE amount to approximately US$ 3.5 billion -- second only to Saudi Arabia from where Pakistani workers remit around US$ 5.5 billion annually Authorities here are unclear about why this decision was taken by the UAE, which has a long history of contributing for the well-being and prosperity of Pakistan and its people.

Since its unification, the UAE’s leadership has established many humanitarian and welfare projects in the education, health and infrastructure sectors in various areas of Pakistan. The UAE has also been contributing generously towards emergency relief programmes for national disasters in Pakistan such as the devastating 2005 earthquake and the floods in 2010. Recently, the UAE sent three aid planes containing more than 40 tons of critical medical and food supplies to assist Pakistan’s efforts to contain the spread of Covid-19.

Additionally, the UAE deposited US$ 2 billion in the State Bank of Pakistan to stabilise Pakistan's fiscal and monetary situation. Under the UAE’s Pakistan Assistance Programme, more than 200 humanitarian and development projects worth US $600 million have been successfully completed in Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

News Desk adds: According to foreign media reports the UAE has stopped issuing new visas to citizens of 13 mostly Muslim-majority countries, including Iran, Syria, Afghanistan and Pakistan, according to a document issued by a state-owned business park.

A source briefed on the matter told a media outlet the visas had temporarily stopped being issued to Afghans, Pakistanis and citizens of several other countries over security concerns, but did not provide details of those concerns.

The document, sent to companies operating in the park, cited an immigration circular that came into effect on Nov. 18. The document said applications for new employment and visit visas had been suspended for nationals - those outside the UAE - of 13 countries that also included Somalia, Libya and Yemen until further notice.

The ban also applies to citizens of Algeria, Kenya, Iraq, Lebanon, Tunisia and Turkey, it says. It was not clear if there were any exceptions to the ban. The UAE’s Federal Authority for Identity and Citizenship had no immediate comment when contacted.

The circular took effect a week after the French Embassy in the UAE urged its citizens to maintain vigilance after a bomb attack in Saudi Arabia on diplomats claimed by Islamic State.