Dubai on Thursday rubbished media reports that entry regulations have been tightened for visit visa holders from five countries, and clarified that a majority of the tourist visa holders who were denied entry into Dubai since October 13, were unqualified job seekers carrying dummy return flight tickets and hotel reservations.
They did not have the means to pay for their sustenance, a top official from the General Directorate of Residency and Foreign Affairs (GDRFA) told Khaleej Times in an exclusive interview.
The passengers were denied entry only after a thorough investigation was conducted by immigration authorities at the arrivals terminal, said Brigadier Talal Ahmed AlShanqeti, director-general of the airport passport affairs sector at the GDRFA.
“The stranded passengers were not genuine tourists. They were unqualified job seekers who arrived here with no means to fend for themselves. They did not have any money for transportation. Moreover, many could not even read the immigration forms,” he said.
AlShanqeti stressed that those who showed proper documentation were allowed to enter Dubai. “All passengers were interviewed at the arrivals terminal by immigration authorities. Many claimed they are tourists who have come to see Dubai and visit their relatives. After our investigation, we found that their hotel reservations were either fake or cancelled. Our officers called the hotels to check — the bookings were fake.”
Diplomatic sources revealed that more than 1,300 Pakistanis and nearly 250 Indians were denied entry into Dubai since October 13 for failing to meet certain pre-travel requirements.
AlShanqeti rubbished media reports that entry regulations have been tightened only for visit visa holders from five countries and clarified that no formal plans have been made to change pre-travel regulations.
“More than 50 per cent of the incoming tourists arrive from a few South Asian countries. They are all genuine tourists. The passengers who are being denied entry are less than one per cent of the total incoming tourists from these five countries that the media mentioned,” he said.
“The situation with these passengers was concluded after our investigation at the counters,” he added.
The official said the UAE’s rules apply to all tourists and it is not restricted to five nationalities. “If we are not convinced they are genuine tourists, then they cannot enter the UAE. These policies are not limited to Dubai; these are international travel practices.”
“Many of them end up becoming destitute here. Since the pandemic, even toilets in all mosques have been closed. Where will they go?” questioned the official.
He also said that tourists who have relatives living in the UAE were allowed to enter as long as they showed ample proof and have visited Dubai before.
“There are also some reports that the issue only took place at Terminal 3 of Dubai Airport, which is false. We had some passengers who were stranded at Terminal 2 as well,” he added.
Financial records not needed
Several media reports had suggested that passengers need to carry a token money of Dh2,000 upon arrival. However, AlShanqeti said that the GDRFA has not issued anything that mandates passengers to show their bank account of financial records before their arrival into the UAE.
“The rules have not been changed. All tourist visa holders must show hotel reservations, medical insurance, and now, a negative Covid-19 test. If something happens to them, who will take care of them?” asked the official.
Airports to be busy by year-end
The official said Dubai Airport has seen growing passenger traffic in the last month. “Tourists in Dubai are coming from all over the world. Over 40,000 passengers are using Dubai Airports every day, both incoming and outgoing. Over the last couple of weeks, we have seen a considerable spike in the numbers since the Covid-19 crisis,” he said.
AlShanqeti also said DXB is expecting the numbers to go up considerably by the end of 2020. “Tourist numbers are also increasing. We have seen a five per cent increase compared to the weeks before and we expect the numbers to rise as the weather in UAE is improving and our country has managed the pandemic very well,” he explained.
Passengers stranded at DXB with very little money, no hotel reservations
Khaleej Times was also given exclusive access to the arrivals section of the airport Terminal 3 where at least 25-30 tourist visa holders were awaiting deportation.
Seated in a socially distanced manner, several passengers Khaleej Times spoke to came across as uneducated as many were completely unaware of how their tickets and visas were booked. Most of the passengers had no hotel bookings, less than Dh500 with them in-hand and had plans to stay in Dubai for 30 days to three months.
Talal Mahmood, a Pakistani traveller said: “I came here to meet my cousin. He is very unwell and I plan to leave in 25 days. I only have Dh250 with me, and I will stay with my relatives.” When asked as to how he procured the visa and booked his tickets for his travel to Dubai, Mahmood said: “I don’t know, an agent did it for me.”
Another traveller Kayyum Nizammuddin from Karachi said: “I have come to see Dubai as a tourist for sightseeing purposes. I will stay with my cousins.” However, Nizammuddin also said he has been to the UAE twice before in 2015. “I don’t care about the Covid-19 crisis. I have just come to visit the place and sightseeing.”
Commenting on the responses from the travellers, AlShanqeti said he suspects many of them have been fooled by recruitment agents. “Many have been lured by recruitment agents. They pay them a lot of money and all these agents do is arrange their visa and tickets. They come here, realise there are no jobs available, and end up becoming destitute.”
Another traveller Mohammed Zafar said: “I have a shop back in Pakistan, and I came here to try my luck and look for another job. I was hoping to stay with my cousins.”
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