Citizens of war-torn nations living in UAE granted one-year stay

Citizens of countries facing conflict and natural disasters, who have overstayed their visas, can now live in the UAE for a year

Citizens of conflict-hit countries living in the UAE who have overstayed their visas will be allowed to remain in the Emirates for a year if they declare their status and apply for a stay permit, according to a ruling announced Monday.

The UAE Cabinet, chaired by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, adopted a resolution that will grant citizens of countries afflicted by war and natural disasters extendable one-year permits – regardless of the conditions of their visa – from August 1 to October 31, 2018.

Those who come forward during this grace period will not face legal consequences and will be exempt from any fines.

The resolution was made “in solidarity with people of affected nations, to offer them a chance to improve their living conditions until they are ready to return to their home countries,” reported state news agency WAM.

“It is a part of the country's principles and responsibility to support the most vulnerable people in the world… especially in the Arab and the GCC region,” said WAM.

The head of the UN refugee agency's UAE operations Toby Harward described the ruling as an “example of solidarity in support of the displaced”.

“This decision helps to ensure the safety of vulnerable persons unable to return to their countries of origin due to conflict or natural disasters," he said in an emailed statement, adding that the agency is in close contact with the UAE government over the decision.

The GCC states are not signatories to the international convention on refugee rights.

A record 68.5 million people have been forced to flee their homes due to war, violence and persecution, UNHCR said in a report published today, with Syria and Afghanistan among the largest refugee-producing countries.

By the close of 2017, the number was nearly three million higher than the previous year, and showed a 50 per cent rise from the 42.7 million uprooted from their homes a decade ago.

The number of people forcibly displaced equates to one in every 110 persons worldwide, the report said.

Syria’s seven-year war alone has seen 6.3 million people flee the country, accounting for almost one-third of the global refugee population.

A further 6.3 million Syrians are internally displaced.

Afghanistan saw a 5 per cent rise in its refugee population in 2017, making it the second-largest refugee producing country.

Large-scale displacements were also seen in South Sudan, Iraq and Myanmar, among other countries.