KOCHI: In May, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) launched the Golden Card Scheme to grant long-term residency to ‘wealthy’ investors and ‘exceptional’ professionals including scientists, inventors, engineers, doctors, artists as well as entrepreneurs and ‘outstanding’ students ‘who will positively contribute to the success story of the UAE’, wrote Vice-President and Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum on Twitter.
The scheme is open only to those who are invited to apply, covering them, their spouse and children. Major General Mohammad Al Marri, director-general of the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs said that the Golden Card is valid up to ten years in the case of investors and special talents, while entrepreneurs and students are entitled to a five-year residency.
The card is renewable indefinitely, provided the cardholders are still in the same activity and continue to satisfy the stipulated terms and conditions. It offers unprecedented benefits to the holders, including free movement in and out with no minimum requirement during the validity period. As of June, 400 cards have been issued, with a target of 6,800 from about seventy countries by the end of the year.
From a realist perspective, it is not wrong on the part of a country to pursue a selectively restrictive immigration policy based on the country’s labour demand, notwithstanding the ethical concerns of global cosmopolitanism rooted in inclusivity and mutuality. However, in a country where the majority are blue-collar labourers, policies to boost their confidence are a requisite.
In recent years there have been a proliferation of labour laws, but not enough considering the sheer number of semiskilled and unskilled people toiling in the heat and cold. Countless reported and unreported instances of human and labour rights violations shows the precarious conditions of the expat working population. Most are temporary, vulnerable and often neglected. Their insecurity compels them to endure the worse situations in a labour camp. The stories of expatriates stranded in camps without a legal contract or work permit require an urgent tightening of rules regulating the private recruitment agencies.
The new expat family sponsorship rule based on income will not be that appealing to many of the unskilled labourers as they prefer to remit savings back to their home countries.
Besides, the majority of the middle and lower strata are often surviving on loans and credit cards and have substantial financial liabilities. Nevertheless, the Golden Card scheme will undoubtedly incentivise global and business professional communities. However, the unintended impact will be the division of the expat community into socio-economic haves and have-nots. If the UAE is looking forward to becoming a genuine space of hospitality to those entering its borders, then they have to take inclusivity seriously.
(The author is an assistant professor of International Studies at FLAME University, Pune. The views expressed are of her own.)