Authorities in the UAE have helped reunite a construction worker with his family in India after he lived illegally in the Emirates for 15 years.
Durgaiah Dobbali had no legal documents and faced more than half a million dirhams in fines for overstaying.
The penalties on Mr Dobbali, 47, were waived after a social worker in Dubai, immigration authorities and the Indian consulate worked for weeks to help him leave the country legally.
On March 18, te reached his home in Karimnagar, near Hyderabad in Telangana state.
“I am very happy to see my children and wife after so long,” said Mr Dobbali, who has worked on construction sites in Sharjah since 2005.
After he arrived in Dubai on a visit visa, his passport was taken by a recruitment agent.
Mr Dobbali said he initially tried to obtain legal work documents but as overstay fines mounted, he kept working so he could continue to send money home.
He sent about Dh1,000 each month and lived on Dh500.
“When possible, I would try and send money,” he said.
“I did what I could because my family is very poor. I needed money for their education and to pay for my daughter’s medicines.”
Mr Dobbali’s eldest daughter needs regular medical care.
“My children would ask me when I would come home. I kept telling them to study,” he said.
“I will keep working hard in any job or in the fields [in agriculture] to earn for my family.”
Mr Dobbali still owes Rs100,000 (Dh4,900) that he took as a loan from people in India.
His 25-year-old son recently began working in retail, which has given the family some hope.
Girish Pant, a volunteer social worker who works with the Indian consulate, helped to highlight Mr Dobbali’s case.
He liaised with immigration and police officials asking them to allow Mr Dobbali to leave the country.
Mr Pant said: “He said he was too scared to go to anyone for help once he realised the fines were rising.”
He described the worker’s background to authorities and asked them to waive the Dh517,600 in overstay fines.
“They understood that his family was too poor. It’s special thanks to the local authorities that they waived the fine on humanitarian grounds,” he said.
Beaver Gulf, a construction company for which Mr Pant oversees corporate social responsibility projects, paid about Dh900 for Mr Dobbali’s exit documents and airfare.
Mr Vipul, India’s Consul General in Dubai described the case as unusual since thousands of workers with expired documents left the UAE during an amnesty in 2018.
At that time, workers could either apply to remain in the country to find work or leave the UAE voluntarily without the risk of a jail term or fines.
“This is an exception. We don’t have many cases of people stuck here for such a long time,” Mr Vipul said.
“People have overstayed their visas but not for 15 years. Ideally he should have taken advantage of the amnesty because overstay fines were waived [at that time].”
He said the UAE authorities could waive or reduce fines for specific cases.
Back home in Karimnagar, Mr Dobbali now hopes to spend time with his four children, aged between 19 and 27, who barely know him apart from phone calls from the Emirates.
He also plans to meet other relatives.
“We are just happy that he is back,” his wife, Shankara Dobbali, said.
“We didn’t want gold or silver from abroad. We just wanted him to come back. It has been a very long time.”