Hundreds of thousands of loan-defaultors, work-absconders and duped workers, some who have been hiding from authorities for years, are expected to make use of a two-month amnesty on illegal residents,  with scores already turning up to amnesty centres on the first day.
The amnesty,  which will run till February 3, began on Tuesday, with desperate foreign nationals calling the amnesty one of the best things that has ever happened to them.
About 342,000 illegal residents made use of the last amnesty, in 2007.
Filipino Susan E. said she had run away from her job after her employers failed to give her her salary, and she had been surviving on part-time jobs for the past four years as she could not leave the country after her employers reported her as an absconder.
“I have long wanted to go home and see my family...This amnesty is (the best) thing that ever happened to me. Thanks to the UAE government.”
Others say they wound up stuck in the country after being maltreated or duped.
An absconding case prevented Ethiopian Abenet S. from going home, even when her father died.
“I cried for days because I could not go home to see him. I had ran away for maltreatment and here I was, I could not freely move nor leave the country. I felt I was put in a cage. Now is my time to go.”
Rosamma, a middle-aged woman from Kerala, said she had come to Dubai looking for a job a year ago but the agent who promised her a job stole off with her passport when she landed, and disappeared.
She said she worked as a part-time maid for several months. “But, these days there is not much work and I’m scared of being caught.”
And it is not only workers from inside the UAE that are seizing the opportunity to depart without penalty.
Pakistani Mohammed Riaz, 48, from Sheikhupura, has illegally crossed into the UAE from Oman after hearing about the amnesty.
“I am earning quite well in Oman, about (Dh1,600 a month) but laws are becoming stricter,” he said.
A senior official has confirmed illegal residents who leave the country during the two-month amnesty will not face a labour ban and may return to the country on a new visa.