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Thu 24 Nov 2011 12:45 PM

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UAE, India prisoner swaps could start within weeks

Deal allows Indian prisoners in Gulf state to finish out their sentence at home

UAE, India prisoner swaps could start within weeks
An estimated 1,000 Indians are held in UAE jails

Indian nationals jailed in UAE prisons could be returning
home to finish out their sentences within weeks, following the signing of a
prisoner swap deal between the two countries on Wednesday.

The agreement also allows the transfer of Emiratis
incarcerated in India and could affect more the more than 1,000 Indians held in
UAE jails, the country’s ambassador to the UAE said.

“The agreement has been signed, each country just has to
send a letter to the other as a formality, and then implementation will start,”
MK Lokesh told Arabian Business.

“It’s maybe a few weeks or a few months [until transfers
begin].”

The signing builds on an existing extradition treaty between
the two countries, and is available to all prisoners irrespective of their
crimes.

The agreement stipulates that prisoners must have more than
six months left to serve of their sentence, and must have no outstanding
charges against them.

Lokesh declined to say who would fund the return of Indian
nationals but said there were “provisions within the agreement”.

The Gulf plays host to millions of migrants, primarily from
Asia, who account for the majority of blue-collar workers in the construction,
domestic work, and service industries.

An estimated three million migrate each year, sending back
an estimated $175bn in remittances annually, according to Human Rights Watch
data.

The six GCC states employ around 15 million guest workers,
according to World Bank figures. The UAE alone is home to an estimated 1.75
million Indian expatriates, the largest group of foreign workers in the Gulf
country.

Sanjay Verma, the Consul General of India in Dubai, told
Arabian Business in October that the prisoner transfer was a sign of increased
cooperation between the two countries.

“It is a federal matter,” he said. “People will have the
option of finishing their term in India, especially the long-term prisoners,
not that there are too many UAE prisoners in India, maybe a handful.”

The Indian Consulate in the UAE saw a two percent fall in
new visas for Indian nationals
last year for the first time, as rising salaries
in the Asian state kept workers at home, Verma said this week.

The Indian government last year set up a fund to help
repatriate migrant workers stranded in the Gulf, a response to the plight of
nearly 200 workers who were stranded in Qatar at the time.

The fund provides air ticket, medical services and food and
is available to workers in 42 countries, including all Gulf countries.

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