Syrian illegal residents in the UAE hoped to start a new chapter in their lives as they headed to the immigration on Wednesday to avail of the amnesty programme, in which they are eligible for a one-year residency visa.

The visa is part of a three-month long amnesty by the UAE government and aims to rectify the legal status of citizens from war-struck countries - Syria, Yemen and Libya. They are eligible to get the residency visa regardless of their current status.

Hail Harouni, a Syrian expat who lost his home, business and a few relatives in the war in his home country, is one of those who wanted to rectify his status, along with that of his wife.

"I had a small grocery store in Syria, I had a nice house, we had food on the table - until it was all destroyed in the war. My wife and I came to live with our children in Sharjah. But, we don't have the funds to pay for our visa. My daughter tries to help me as much as she can, but prices are too high," Harouni said.

"A one-year visa will help us because we were paying too much for the visit visa before. It costs a lot and we kept getting it again and again. This amnesty has come at a very fortunate time for us. Maybe, I can also get a job after I am a legal resident to support my family."

Some of Harouni's relatives also escaped the war and are currently living at a refugee camp in Jordan. He hopes that they will be able to get a UAE visa and relocate.

Another Syrian family in the UAE, who has revived their optimism in their future is Al Sharif family.

Waleed Al Sharif has two sons, aged 12 and four, who are currently living illegally in the country. One of them is not going to school and he was worried about his son's future - until now.

"As soon as my son gets the visa, the first thing we will do is get a school admission for him," Al Sharif said. "He's already getting his school bag ready and taking out his old uniform. We will be very happy to wake him up in the early mornings again for school."

A 19-year-old Syrian resident, Ahmed Yasir Hassan, will also be availing of the amnesty and will attempt to find a job once he is legal.

"The most difficult part of being illegal is that no one hires you. Once I have a job, I can help my family and maybe go to university if I save enough," he said.

Some Syrian families are also hoping that their relatives, who are living with a refugee status in other countries, will also qualify for a UAE residence visa, instead of just a visit visa.

Khaleej Times has previously highlight Syrian expat Hassan Ibrahim's story before. His 12-year-old son is living in a Germany-based refugee camp. However, his entire family are legal UAE residents. Ibrahim hopes his son's visa will come through.

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