A Syrian national who has found sanctuary in the UAE from the troubles of his homeland says a move to offer a one-year extension to citizens of war-torn countries living in the country offers sharp relief from 18 months of fear.

The UAE Cabinet, chaired by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, adopted a resolution that will grant citizens of countries in which there are wars and natural disasters extendable one-year permits – regardless of their condition of residence – from August 1 to October 31 this year.

The decision means that those affected will be able to remain in the UAE for a further two months if they come forward, declare their illegal status and apply for a stay permit.

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

The news that the government will grant extendable one-year residence permits to citizens from war-torn countries has brought hope to residents across the country.

Saeed Al Rashidi, the Acting Director of Foreigners Affairs at the Federal Authority for Identity and Citizenship, said the new law could apply to Yemen, Syria and Libya. In an interview with Sky News Arabia, he urged residents to register and said they would be eligible for state benefits such as free education for children and medical treatment for the elderly.

For “Omar”, a Syrian living in Ras Al Khaimah, the announcement offers respite from concerns he may have to leave the country he has called home for half of his life.

His residency expired when his employer’s company closed in November 2016. Subsequent employers have not granted him residency.

“It’s not easy at all,” said Omar, a 36-year-old who has lived in the UAE since he was 18. “In the first couple of months, I was just sitting in the house and not even going out to the Baqala or anywhere because I thought if I go out, I’ll be in trouble.”

Omar survived on part-time work. Like many of his Syrian friends, he found companies reluctant to hire him because of his nationality. – Reuters

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