Pakistan FM says expects UAE visa ban issue to be ‘resolved soon’

UAE last month abruptly halted issuance of new visas to citizens of 13 Muslim-majority nations over ‘security concerns’.

Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi [File: Salahuddin/Reuters]

Pakistan’s foreign minister says he expects the issues being faced by members of the Pakistani diaspora following an abrupt visa ban imposed by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) last month to be resolved soon.

“The Pakistani community and our diaspora in the UAE have contributed significantly to the UAE’s progress and development and it is acknowledged and appreciated and we are grateful for that. There are some issues of concern that I discussed and I am expecting a resolution of them,” Shah Mehmood Qureshi told a news conference in Abu Dhabi on Friday.

He said discussions with the UAE on the visa issue are ongoing and he will meet top UAE intelligence officials later on Friday to discuss the matter.

On November 18, the UAE abruptly halted the issuance of new visas to citizens of 13 mainly Muslim-majority countries over “security concerns,” according to a Reuters news agency report.

The countries were Afghanistan, Algeria, Iran, Iraq, Kenya, Lebanon, Libya, Pakistan, Somalia, Syria, Tunisia, Turkey and Yemen.

Citizens of those countries who were already in the UAE did not appear to be affected by the new restrictions.

On Thursday, Qureshi held talks with Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai, who also serves as the UAE’s prime minister, vice-president and defence minister, in Dubai on the visa ban.

“[Qureshi] discussed ways to further strengthen cooperation between the two brotherly countries, possibilities of enhancing bilateral trade relations and promoting investment, in particular in the field of agriculture,” read a Pakistani statement following the meeting.

“The Foreign Minister also discussed matters pertaining to the welfare of Pakistani diaspora in the UAE.”

Qureshi also met the Gulf state’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed on Thursday, according to a UAE government statement.

The Pakistan Foreign Office on Friday issued a statement on Qureshi’s meeting with his UAE counterpart.

“Praising the hard work and dedication of Pakistani professionals and workers in the UAE, Foreign Minister Qureshi acknowledged their positive contribution towards progress and development of the UAE as well as Pakistan,” it said.

The statement said Qureshi “discussed with his counterpart matters pertaining to Pakistani diaspora’s welfare and stressed the need to further strengthen people to people linkages between the two brotherly countries”.

Last month, Qureshi had raised the visa issue with UAE State Minister Reem al-Hashimi during a meeting on the sidelines of an Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) meeting in the Nigeran capital, Niamey.

The UAE is home to the second largest population of overseas Pakistanis in the world, according to government data, and is a key source of foreign currency for Pakistan in the form of those workers’ remittances back home.

Last month, an estimated 1.5 million Pakistanis in the UAE sent home $519.5 million, accounting for 22 percent of all foreign remittances and ranking second overall in remittances by country, according to Pakistan’s central bank data .

Saudi Arabia leads that list, with Pakistani workers there sending home $615.1 million in November.

Asad Hashim is Al Jazeera’s digital correspondent in Pakistan. He tweets @AsadHashim.

Source: Al Jazeera