Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The strange story of Baby Nayana

It's another one of those very strange and complicated reports we seem to get all too often.

The difficulty people have dealing with bureaucrats, a lack of communication between government departments, different versions of events from the parties involved, something which could seemingly be resolved quickly and easily taking far too long, not to mention the problems faced by low paid workers. It's all there.

Bizarrely, at the heart of it is an eighteen month old baby.

The story broke Monday last week when the baby was declared illegal by Sharjah Naturalisation & Residency Department and given one week to leave the country, otherwise the parents would receive hefty fines. She could also have a one-year ban imposed if the fine was not paid.

When the baby was born in October 2007 her parents tried to sponsor her, but the application was rejected by the SNRD as they were not earning enough. Her mother Sheeja is a nurse at a government hospital, her father a tailor.

In October 2008 Nurse Sheeja's salary was increased, which seems to have taken them to the required level, but:

"I was then able to sponsor my baby, but when I applied for a residency visa for her at the SNRD it was rejected too."

Sheeja said SNRD officials told her the baby had to leave the country in less than a week with an outpass to avoid the fines, otherwise she would get a one-year ban.

"I was told that after one year I could obtain a new visa for my baby and bring her back to live with me," she said.

The next day, Tuesday of last week, a 'senior SNRD official' was reported as talking toughly about the law being the law and in fact the mother is also illegal because she's protecting her illegal daughter. But he did also say that the case would be reviewed on humanitiarian grounds. The SNRD called the mother and told her they were ready to help her if she submitted her bank statement.

So far so good.


Isn't there always a but.

Sheeja was arrested on Monday by the SNRD, charged with submitting forged documents. She was released some hours later on condition she would return to the department on Tuesday, yesterday, with a guarantor's passport. I see nothing in today's news to tell us what happened.

SNRD investigators said that her bank salary statement showed a transfer of Dh3,000 per month but she had submitted a salary certificate slip showing her salary was Dh4,210.

Here's another but.

But...the Health Ministry which employs her has said that the documents are in fact genuine.

According to Gulf News a senior official from the health department said on Monday that Sheeja was offered a higher salary certificate as she was about to be promoted following the completion of two years' service.

The official said the certificate presented to the SNRD was not forged.

Simplistic I know, but wouldn't a phone call have been appropriate? From SNRD to the Health Dept.

The health department official went on to make a very sensible statement:

"The reason for issuing such certificate for certain professions at the ministry is to help them to stay in the UAE because they are needed for the operation of the hospitals and clinics run by the ministry. We are keeping in mind the families of our professional staff who must remain united with their families otherwise they will leave to other countries," he said.


I can see the difficulty for the SNRD officials in the first instance though.

They have a law to uphold. That law sets the minimum salary for expats to sponsor family members at Dh6,000 without accommodation or Dh4,000 with accommodation. But it's not only salary, there is a list of professions which can and cannot sponsor family. Expatriate mothers cannot sponsor their families unless they are in one of 13 specialised professions. Sheeja is listed as Assistant Nurse, which is not on that list.

Officials had told Sheeja that the law had to be implemented equally, and I can see their point. But I do think that some flexibility could have come into the picture. Referral to higher authority perhaps.

"Look boss, I know what the law says but we have a case here with special circumstances which I don't think the law covers. What do you think?"

That takes us to the law-writing side. It was decided to bar anyone earning less than a certain amount from sponsoring their family. On the surface that makes sense - you're not earning enough to be able to look after, and be responsible for, family members in the UAE.

But when they were writing the law I suspect that no-one thought 'what about people living here who have a baby?'

I really can't believe that the law was intended to apply in a case like this.

Then there's the job discrimination. I've always found it impossible to understand why certain professions are banned from doing things which other professions are allowed to do, but that does seem to pop up in laws around the Gulf. Not only on lists of professions not allowed to sponsor family members but it's come up with issues as basic as driving licences.

There's also an issue here, and I must say it applies in many other countries, about how badly we pay our nurses. Why is that? I can remember the same argument raging in the past in both the UK and Australia.

Anyway, in the Baby Nayana saga the Ministry of Interior is now involved so we have at least three governemnt departments caught up in it.

All in all, a terrible mess, which is getting some media coverage overseas too. I hope for the sake of the family, the baby and the reputation of the UAE that it's now resolved quickly.

Here are three links to the unfolding story in Gulf News:
Baby declared illegal.
Case to be reviewed.
Mother arrested.


Anonymous said...

What I fail to understand is that this country is based on Sharia Law. According to Sharia Law and Hadiths, it is haram or sinful to separate a family living together. Instead of promoting their unity, laws here are separating families.

In the name of professions especially, UAE is forcing families to live apart. It almost makes me feel that the law makers here dont understand or have any family ties hence they pay less attention.

To some extend I understand minimum income but that should be taken into consideration with husband's and wife's income. What does one's profession got to do with sponsoring and living affordably.

Again, if living expenditure is the issue, what the Govt should really be doing is try to bring it down, regulate rental market and other means to keep expenses low. Life is once, many fathers here have missed the watching the early infancy stages of their kids and growing up fun.

ZeTallGerman said...

I agree with anom, well said. Just recently I was listening to a chat-show on Dubai Eye Radio (the subject was on the illegal use of Skype in the UAE due to international calling charges being so ridiculously high). An Indian businessman said something that also applies perfectly to this case: "A man who earns 40,000 Dhs a month and a man who earns 4,000 Dhs a month - they both love their families equally and should both have the equal right to speak to / be with their families. Family bonds and love isn't a privilege of the rich."

Anonymous said...

We are all un-wanted guest here to do the dirty work, and leave once its over !! It also has a monopoly system, and all controls are with govt. the policy is to fleece and squeeze you, whilst serving for this nation ........

Seabee said...

Anon@11.39 We are all un-wanted guest here to do the dirty work, and leave once its over !! is another of the predictable and demonstrably untrue statements which Anons tend to make.

You use the phrase 'we all' when you have no way of knowing what everybody else thinks and does. It may be true of you but not of 'all'

If 'we all' are unwanted guests we wouldn't have been invited to come here. So on the contrary, we're welcomed.

And if 'we all' do the dirty work that must include the tens of thousands of very well paid and regarded expats who do anything but 'dirty work'.

Of course you're free to express your opinions, but please give a little thought to claims before you make them.