Amira Agarib (KT Exclusive)
24 August 2009
DUBAI — Rahmatalla Al Afghani has illegally entered Dubai 15 times and promises to do it again as he continues to chase the Dubai dream.
“I will not stop infiltrating Dubai. I will try to get the money which I need by all means,” the 25-year-old Afghan told Khaleej Times from jail after his most recent arrest.
“I want to have a supermarket, a villa, a luxury car in Afghanistan.”
Al Afghani is one of 36,000 people caught illegally entering or staying in the country in the first six months of the year — a rate that if continued would more than double last year’s figures which show only 29,000 were caught for all of 2008.
As recession hits people in their home country, many harbouring the idea of a good life in Dubai have come to the emirate illegally, said Brigadier Khalil Ibrahim Al Mansouri, Director of the General Department of Criminal Investigation.
Al Mansouri called for stricter measures, including intensifying border patrols and establishing more inspection offices at entry points to the country, to reduce the number of illegal immigrants. He said police units could also be stationed at UAE entry points.
Afghani, who married two years ago, said he has illegally entered 13 other countries but said he likes Dubai the most. Police discovered he was responsible for 80 thefts during his latest stay and he is serving a three-year sentence to be completed in 2010 after which he will be deported.
“Dubai is the best place to live in and steal from,” Afghani said. “So I will never stop infiltrating to Dubai. I am a poor man and I need to support my family.”
Al Mansouri said that of the illegal immigrants and residents caught this year, 22,000 were Bangladeshi, 7,000 Pakistani and the remaining other nationalities. He said 786 people were repeat violators. Statistics showed that 52 had criminal records.
Al Mansouri said that 90 percent of illegal immigrants and residents have no passports or documents. Some sell their passports or use it as guarantee.
He said also some changed their names to obtain new passports in their countries after being deported and illegally enter again.
Some tourist companies were creating more problems by bringing in people but not informing the authorities when their clients do not travel and their visit visas expire.
Al Mansouri said most illegal immigrants and residents were found and arrested by police during raids on bachelor accommodation, farms and in remote areas.
Others were sighted by Dubai Police Airwing, land and sea patrols, as they entered the country by land or sea.
A lack of strict measures to check this phenomenon would have a serious impact on country’s security and pose a burden on the economy, according to Al Mansouri.
“It was important to know how they had entered the country,” he said. “We should investigate the issue and find a solution to protect the society.”
The UAE Coast Guard should play an important role in arresting illegals.
Afghani said he first entered the UAE illegally nine years ago as a 16-year-old.
“I entered the country through Fujairah, Oman, Ras Al Khaimah and most of the time from Iran by sea,” he said.
Afghani said he and other illegal immigrants had paid traders to help them enter the country.
He said the trip to Dubai, often starting in Iran, would usually take him one day. On his first visits, he would need the help of others but he said now he knew all the routes. Those who knew the routes well, knew how to enter without being caught by police or coast guards. “Infiltrating to the UAE is very difficult. The person should know the internal far road which nobody from police can come,” Afghani said.
Afghani said travellers could be killed by snakes or fall from a high point if they weren’t careful.
He had worked in various places in the UAE during his stays, he said, and knew a number of trades but had failed to cover his expenses or send money to his big family in Afghanistan.
He turned to theft, saying he could make $5,000 each time. Afghani said he only works when he is in jail, usually making a date product to sell to other inmates. Afghani vowed he would return to the UAE again. “The police officials offered me to start new life, but I don’t want to be where I can get less money,” Al Afghani said. “I prefer to steal from... rich people.”