Sunday, April 5, 2009

The real Visa run! UAE to Yemen by land to avoid biometrics

Great story today in the Gulf News about how Oman is being used as a transit country for illegal workers, and those on the run for other reasons, to get from UAE to Yemen.

They are driven across the desert at night, crossing over the border, and then down to Yemen. A hell of a drive. I wonder how they get through the monster fence that the UAE erected across their borders a couple of years ago?

Picture: Gulf News

Now that's what I call a visa run!

The new Iris scans at UAE are thus having a big impact, stopping the common practice of people simply getting a new passport in a different name back in their home country to re-enter the UAE and thereby avoiding pre-existing problems associated with their old identity, such as an employment ban.

Such practice - reentering on a new passport with a different name - is common in Oman, where there is still no use of biometrics at the entry points, making it easy to avoid employment bans and get back into Oman on a new visa.

Illegal residents fleeing UAE via Oman's borders
By Bassma Al Jandaly, Staff Reporter
Published: April 04, 2009, 22:46

Dubai: Hundreds of illegal residents are fleeing the country via the UAE-Oman borders to avoid the iris scan, in order for them to return to the UAE, Gulf News learnt.

A police source told Gulf News that some people, who are wanted by police for bounced cheques, unpaid loans and other crimes, are also fleeing the country through the borders.

The source said they are crossing the desert using routes that will lead them to Salalah in Oman.

"After reaching Salalah they head to Yemen," the source said.

The source said some housemaids, workers and other expatriates, who are staying illegally in the country, are doing this to avoid the iris scan and the ban which will prevent them from coming back to the UAE.

He said some wanted people also fled the country in the same way.

"Police in the country are hunting those who are aiding these illegal residents and the criminals, to flee the country," he said.

He said they use four-wheel drive vehicles on their trips to help them through the desert.

"Their outings are dangerous. These agents who help the illegals to flee the country are armed while police and military forces on the border are chasing them which put their lives and the people who are travelling with them at risk," he said.

He said most of the time, the agents dump the infiltrators in the desert after taking their money.

He said they go through deserts from any emirate to reach Salalah which is the nearest area to Yemen on the border with the UAE.

He said they travel at night and it takes them one and a half days to reach Yemen.

Police said the country's borders are tightly monitored to prevent infiltration.

An Ethiopian housemaid who works for a Sudanese family in Sharjah, told Gulf News that she stayed in the UAE illegally for more than ten years before she infiltrated to Oman then to Yemen to avoid the life ban.

"I came to work in the UAE 11 years ago for an Emirati family in Abu Dhabi, but I absconded after two months and I worked for different families for ten years," she said.

She said when she decided to go back to her country, it was hard because her iris scan would be taken and she would be banned from coming back.

"If I had my iris scan that would not help me if I changed my passport in my country in order to come back here because I would be caught upon arrival," she said.

She added that last year she fled the UAE to Yemen then to her home country.

"When we went on our trip, I had an agreement with the people who helped us flee, to pay Dh3,500. We were seven people in one car. All of us were illegals. We were different nationalities. Indians, Filipinos, Ethiopians, Sir Lankans and Afghans."

She said that each one had paid different prices. The Indian woman had paid Dh2,500, some had paid Dh6,000 depending on the period of time they had been here and the cost was higher for wanted people.

She said that at the borders they were chased by police and her friend who was with her was afraid and jumped from the car.

"We had no clue what happened to her but later on we came to know that she died on the spot after jumping from the car," she said.

She said when they reached Yemen, they surrendered to the authorities there.

"The people who took us to Yemen, left us alone but they told us to go to the police and say that we had entered Yemen illegally, that we had no passports and wanted to go to our home countries," she said.

She said the authorities in Yemen questioned them and then deported them back to their countries.

"I changed my passport and I obtained a new employment visa in the UAE," she said.

The housemaid said she is now working legally. She added it was a horrible experience which she could not do again.

Gulf News spoke with senior Interior Ministry officials who did not comment on those who had illegally left the UAE via the land borders.


  1. Point of order Mr. Chaiman. When I came back from Qatar a few days ago I just put my res card through a slot and had my thumb scanned...whizzz, no Q!

  2. Good point DA, but at this stage in Oman it's still optional to use biometrics: there's still nothing at the ordinary immigration desks on arrival, and no biometrics at all on exit.

  3. What I did not understand is, why do they choose Yemen for deportation and not another nation? Do they have different deportation laws?


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