A desperate expat mother is seeking help to clear immigration fines to sponsor the visa of her three kids who have not been to school for years. She found a job in Sharjah but the immigration penalties have reached around Dh16,000.
Speaking to Khaleej Times, Sharifat Mohammad, 42, said life was good when she first arrived to the UAE from Nigeria seven years ago. With an engineering degree, she got a job as a maintenance engineer in a company in Sharjah.
Her husband and three kids followed her to the UAE the following year. She was receiving at least Dh3,000 monthly, and her husband got a job which earned him Dh2,500.
After a while, Sharifat got an offer to work as an administrative manager at a company that promised her a monthly pay of Dh12,000. She took the job because she would be able to put her kids under her sponsorship.
But everything went south after that. The company reneged on its promise and Sharifat said she never received a full month’s salary. In early 2015, she lost her job.
Sharifat desperately searched for jobs but failed. “Maybe because of my age, companies did not hire me,” she said.
Her visa and that of her kids’ expired after some time and another major setback followed when her husband was laid off in 2016.
“My husband went back home to look for a job but was not able to get a stable one,” said Sharifat, adding: “I managed to secure a tuition job with a family in Sharjah that paid for our rent and food. But we could barely survive with a very little source of income and eventually we were not able to pay for rent and utility bills.”
“I have been shouldering the responsibilities alone with irregular income I sometimes get a tuition class during exams as I can teach mathematics and sciences to high school students. My children, aged 12, 10 and 9, haven’t seen the four walls of the classroom in the last three years as I couldn’t afford to put them in school but I put them in a madrasa and homeschool them in the evening,” Sharifat shared, as tears fell from her eyes.
Sharifat added she tried to avail of the UAE immigration amnesty last year. Her fine was waived but still she was not able to sponsor her kids as the job she got was an office clerk, with a pay of Dh3,500. “I was turned down because there was a previous rule that an expat has to meet a certain job criteria to sponsor family,” she said.
“But now with the change in the visa rule, my spirit is lifted and I got hope. I approached the company and told them to process my visa. Now the only hindrance is how I can pay for the Dh16,000 immigration fines,” Sharifat noted.
“We do not have any loan, be it personal or credit card. We have been managing our life accordingly until a series of unfortunate things happened. Now, we rely on friends to get our basic needs but there is a chance that we can finally get back our lives and stand on our feet. I’m determined to give my children a good life,” she added with conviction.
Like any other devout Muslim parents, Sharifat led her children for prayers on the first day of Eid. “After the prayers and Eid meals, we went straight back home,” she said, adding: “We have been living in fear since the end of amnesty. My boys can only go to the masjid. No school, no class, no park as we fear, someone may come after us.
“But I have a strong faith in God and I decided to share my family situation as I believe there is still hope for me and my children. I am really tired of keeping them indoors. All I ask for is to clear the fines and make visa for me and my children so that they can have a normal life like any other kid. Going back home is never an option for us because things are worse there,” she continued.
“The UAE has been our home.”