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Sunday May 26, 2024

UAE work visa for Pakistanis — confusion persists over ban or no ban

Enver Baig insists that the ban has been imposed with effect from November 18, 2020

By Ansar Abbasi
November 27, 2020

ISLAMABAD: Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi Thursday confirmed The News story about banning work visa for Pakistanis by the United Arab Emirates (UAE). However, another prominent cabinet member refuted the restrictions imposed on Pakistan by the friendly Arab country.

The special assistant to the prime minister (SAPM) on overseas Pakistanis on Thursday quoted a UAE minister to categorically deny the reported ban on work/employment visas for Pakistani workers in the Emirates.

In a tweet, the PM’s aide said he is thankful to HE Nasser bin Thani Juma Al Hamli, Minister of Human Resources & Emiratisation, for his continued support for overseas Pakistanis. He said contrary to media reports, the UAE minister categorically stated there is no ban on the export of the Pakistani workforce.

The SAPM added that there has been an 11 percent increase in the number of Pakistani knowledge workers in the UAE. “Workers including Pakistanis laid off during Covid-19 registered on the Virtual Labour Market Database are given priority,” the premier’s aide tweeted, adding that 10-year golden visa applications are also being encouraged. “Looking forward to continued collaboration with the UAE leadership to address the issues of our diaspora,” he concluded.

Contrary to what the SAPM tweeted, former Senator Enver Baig, whose family has been into the human resource export business for decades, said: “It is quite astonishing to learn that there is no ban on work visas for Pak nationals. Unfortunately, this is not true.”

Baig added that the ban has been imposed with effect from November 18, 2020 and there has been no work visas issued to Pakistani nationals since then. He said that the Bureau of Emigration & Overseas Employment can verify with all their protectorates in the major cities of Pakistan if any worker has approached them for registration with a work visa issued after Nov 18.

“I stand by my statement. I would again like to reiterate that the honourable PM Imran Khan has to intervene to have this matter resolved,” Baig said.

The DG Bureau of Emigration and Overseas Employment when contacted by The News on Thursday also referred to PM’s aide’s telephonic conversation with the UAE minister and said that the UAE minister had categorically denied a ban on work visas for Pakistani workers.

Previously, when this correspondent had talked to the DG, he had said that the UAE had suspended all kinds of visas including work visas for 13 countries including Pakistan. He had referred to the Foreign Office statement, issued last week, on the subject. The DG had said that this visa suspension was due to the Covid-19 situation.

However, the Foreign Office spokesman on Wednesday had talked about the suspension of only visit visas. The Foreign Office spokesman Zahid Hafeez had said that the United Arab Emirates had temporarily suspended the issuance of visit visas to a dozen countries, including Pakistan, until further notice.

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

Apart from what the Pakistani authorities have been saying on the issue, Reuters reported on Wednesday that new employment and visit visas had been suspended for nationals of 13 countries, including Pakistan, who are outside the country.

The Reuters story, carried by both the local and international media, referred to a document issued by UAE’s state-owned business park to say that the United Arab Emirates has stopped issuing new visas to citizens of 13, mostly Muslim-majority, countries. It added that the document, which was sent to companies operating in the park and was seen by Reuters, cited an immigration circular that came into effect on November 18.

Meanwhile, The News has in its possession a document, purportedly belonging to the Dubai Airport free zone, announcing the suspension of new employment and visit visas for 13 countries, including Pakistan, with effect from November 18 until further orders.

This situation is quite confusing as the responses from the Pakistani authorities show that they have nothing in writing about the ban or otherwise. While the Foreign Office had announced that a ban has been imposed on visit visas, it did not know the reason and speculated that Covid-19 might be the cause. On the other hand, the DG of the Bureau of Emigration & Overseas Employment was of the view that the ban includes a ban on work visas. Now the SAPM and the DG BEOE, quoting a UAE minister, are saying that there is no ban.

What is the situation on the ground? Have the UAE authorities issued any new work visas after November 18? The answers to these questions will help solve this intriguing riddle.

However, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi Thursday confirms The News story on work visa ban for Pakistan by United Arab Emirates, contradicting what his cabinet colleague announced only few hours before.

Talking in Geo News programme ‘Aaj Shahzeb Khanzada Kay Saath’, Shah Mehmood Qureshi said the UAE authorities have assured Pakistan that the visa ban will not stay for long. When asked about the reasons of the ban, the minister said so far no reasons have been shared by the UAE officials in this regard.

Qureshi said the ban is not Pakistan-specific as many other countries are also included in the visa ban. He said those Pakistani citizens who have already been issued visas by the UAE will have no problems in travelling there. He said the UAE is building some new protocols after which the process of issuance of new visas will resume. He said Pakistan’s relations with the UAE and Saudi Arabia are quite normal.

The UAE Embassy in Islamabad has provided supportive items to more than 38,000 female medical workers in Pakistan during the coronavirus pandemic as part of its efforts for women's empowerment.

According to the UAE Embassy, the UAE has sent three batches of total 35 metric tons of medical and food aid to Pakistan to boost its efforts in containing the spread of the virus. The aid was widely distributed among different Covid-19 affected areas of Pakistan with the help of Pakistan Army and National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA). Health professionals, particularly the women largely benefited from the aid. According to an estimate, approximately 35,864 women health professionals who were working on the frontline against the Covid-19 pandemic used this aid to protect themselves which in turn helped them to serve humanity in a better way.

The step taken by the leadership of the UAE has been widely appreciated at all levels. Dr Ruth K Hospital Karachi wrote in a message, “By taking this opportunity, we would like to extend our gratitude towards the UAE.”

Children Hospital Lahore wrote, “The UAE has always helped its brotherly country Pakistan in the time of need.”

DHQ Hospital Dera Ismail Khan wrote, “The PPE kits are very helpful for us during the treatment of COVID patients.” Khyber Hospital Peshawar wrote, “We are obliged by the help extended by the UAE in these challenging times.”