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November 28, 2020

Visa issues

Editorial

 
November 28, 2020

The news that the United Arab Emirates, one of Pakistan's closest allies, and the country from which the largest number of remittances are received by Pakistan, after Saudi Arabia, has decided to stop issuing new visas to Pakistan, both for visitors and for work, is disturbing. It is not yet clear what the precise reasons for the decision are. It was initially thought it was because of the Covid-19 pandemic but if that were the case, it is odd that India is not included amongst the 13 countries for which new restrictions have been issued. These countries include Turkey, Yemen, Syria, Somalia and others, apart from Pakistan.

The restriction on new work visas has meant that one recruiting agency alone, according to a local newspaper, has lost 3000 jobs it had offered people who had applied and been granted these work opportunities which offer them much better salaries than they would receive in Pakistan. Given the economic crunch, this is a terrible time for such restrictions to come in. Pakistan's Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi has said that the restrictions will remain in place only for a very limited period, and that the usual work permits and entry documents will go back to normal after this. But the fact that Pakistan has still not received a definite communication from the UAE on why the restrictions were found necessary is a subject of some concern. We certainly hope that the restrictions are lifted as soon as possible. Tens of thousands of Pakistanis currently work in the UAE and of course, many more than that number, are seeking work in the Emirates.

The only explanation offered so far has been 'security concerns' for the UAE. Again it is important that we know what this implies, and what the security reasons were. For the moment, there's also the possibility that work which may have been offered to Pakistanis will go to Indians. This is obviously not good news for Pakistan, and the Foreign Office, the foreign ministry, and the government need to treat the problem as a serious one and figure out what can be done about it, or why the restrictions were found necessary by the UAE and its government in the first place. Until we get to the bottom of the matter, it will be difficult to take measures that can allow Pakistanis to once again find work in the UAE or even to visit a country where many have relatives and friends.