108 Filipinos under UAE amnesty program arrive in Manila

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MANILA — A total of 108 Filipinos from Dubai who availed of the amnesty program of the United Arab Emirates government arrived in Manila on Wednesday.

The latest batch, composed of an infant and 107 overseas Filipino workers. This  brings to 838 the total number of Filipinos repatriated since August 2018.

The amnesty program of the UAE government started in August and is expected to end by October 2018.

Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Sarah Lou Arriola estimates that there are around 10,000 undocumented and overstaying Filipinos in the Gulf state.

“Only few have registered, we estimate that there are 10,000 to 15,000 (undocumented/overstaying) Filipinos (in UAE),” she told the Philippine News Agency (PNA).

Of this figure, the official explained some are opting to avail of UAE’s “job seeker’s visa,” which allows them to fix their employment papers within a period of six months.

“Some chose to stay, while some opted to come home,” she noted.

A 54-year old factory worker turned domestic helper who asked not to be named said UAE’s amnesty and the repatriation program of the Department of Foreign Affairs allowed her to come home from her 11-year stay in Dubai.

Overworked and paid with very low wage, she left her employer in 2008 and has since worked part-time in different households.

“Now, I’m really glad to be home,” the Filipina from Zamboanga said.

Another overstaying Filipina, Leticia Gawiran, also expressed gratitude for the assistance extended to her after availing of the amnesty.

Gawiran has been working as a domestic helper in Dubai since 2003. Her working visa expired in 2007 and has also worked in different employers.

“After leaving my employer, I’ve worked in different households,” she told the PNA. “I had to pay rent because I can’t work as a stay-in employee.”

Similar to others, the 60-year old Filipina from Ilocos Norte has yet visited her home until the amnesty and repatriation came September 2018.

Most of the repatriates from the latest batch admitted they entered UAE possessing tourist visas in search for employment. Meanwhile, some were documented but ran away from their employers due to abuse and unfair working conditions.

According to Arriola, the DFA, through its assistance-to-nationals fund and the legal assistance fund, financed all papers and even the OFWs plane tickets.

Upon arrival at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, the returning Filipinos were also given USD100 cash assistance each. –PNA

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