When the now 48-year-old Chilumala Chandrashekhar arrived in the UAE in May 2007 on a visit visa from India, his two children were 10 and 6 years old, respectively. Since then, he hasn’t seen them.
And this new year, he will be back home with his wife and children.
On Saturday, after 10 years of uncertainty, Chandrashekhar was at Dubai airport again, this time to return to his hometown in Telangana.
“I haven’t seen my kids in 10 years. They are 20-year-old and 16-year-old now,” he told Khaleej Times.
After being lured by false promises made by a fraud visa agent in India, Chandrashekhar decided in 2007 to leave his hometown and family behind in the hope that he would be able to build a better future for them.
But he ended up living in Dubai without getting his residency papers in order and doing menial jobs for 10 years. After suffering a serious injury at a construction site earlier this month – that resulted in a fractured heel – immigration authorities, the Indian consulate and local social workers intervened on humanitarian grounds. Chandrashekhar returned home on Saturday.
He had overstayed for 3,865 days and was levied a hefty fine of Dh386,500. As a goodwill gesture, Chandrashekhar’s overstay fines were pardoned, and he was issued an exit pass by the Indian consulate. Khaleej Times caught up with him at Dubai airport before he flew back to India. Another worker Sanjeev Gudise (27) was also issued an out pass after an overstay of 152 days.
A goldsmith by profession, Chandrashekhar was told that he would land a similar job in Dubai. “I saw the agent in Dubai for three days after which, he left me stranded. I’d paid him INR70,000 for the visa, air ticket and a down payment cost for the job. When I got here, I realised that I don’t have a job and that I’d been cheated,” he said.
Since Chandrashekhar had spent a major chunk of his life savings to come to the UAE, going back home empty-handed was not an option. Within a month’s time, he was left to fend for himself and ended up doing menial jobs in construction companies. “I would earn a monthly salary of Dh600 to Dh1,200 after doing menial jobs,” he adds.
“My children are grown up now. And my wife is still working as a manual labourer in a beedi-making factory to make ends meet,” he said. “But I am very happy to be going back home now, especially after 10 years. I am very keen to meet my children,” he said.
‘People must not live here illegally’
However, the Indian mission insisted that Indian expatriates must adhere to rules and regulations in the UAE and not overstay once their visas are expired.
Vipul, Consul-General of India to Dubai, said: “In Chandrashekhar’s case, people from the community have also helped immensely. We’re very thankful to the UAE authorities since they’ve waived off overstay charges, and we’re also thankful to the Indian community members for helping him with his hospital bills and flight ticket back home.”
Vipul, however, stated that expatriates should not violate local rules, or live in the UAE illegally. Workers often fall prey to fraud agents as they are completely unaware of local rules and regulations.
Vipul stressed that workers must be aware, and get their visas processed by a government-approved agent in India and refer to the e-migrate system before coming to the UAE.
Social worker Girish Pant with the India People Forum said: “Agents take advantage of poor people, and they give huge sums of money in the hope that they will have a job. Since they spend such huge amounts to get here, going back empty-handed is too embarrassing, so they end up staying on hoping that things would get better.”
Source Credit: Khaleej Times