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Filipino workers using UAE illegally to travel to banned countries

Filipinos are using the Emirates as a means to travel to banned countries such as Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, in search of work.

ABU DHABI // Filipinos are using the UAE as a jumping-off point to get to countries where they are banned from working, a recruitment expert claimed yesterday.

They apply for tourist visas to the UAE, and once here continue on to countries such as Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, where the Philippines bans its citizens from working, according to Jose Jacob, the consul at the Philippine Embassy in Abu Dhabi.

The problem persists despite recent controversial efforts to clamp down on people leaving the Philippines on tourist visas.

"The UAE has been a springboard for illegal recruitment," said Victor Fernandez, the president of the Philippine Association of Service Exporters, which represents 700 recruitment agencies. "About 80 per cent of the undocumented workers in Syria are believed to have passed through the UAE."

Border authorities in the Philippines are well aware of the problem. Since August last year, border officials have been ordered to be on the lookout for anyone they suspect is going to work without the proper papers.

Many Filipinos have been barred from boarding their flights, but some manage to get through by bribing officials.

John Leonard Monterona, the Middle East coordinator for rights group Migrante, said Filipinos were driven by "poverty, unemployment and the rising cost of living in the Philippines" to seek jobs in banned countries.

He said they would continue to find ways to circumvent the law to support their families, including travelling to the UAE and later flying to a banned country where there are job opportunities.

On Wednesday, the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA), which monitors overseas employment, released resolutions, one approving Filipinos' deployment to 49 countries and banning them from 41 countries including Afghanistan, Libya, Sudan, Iraq, Lebanon, and Pakistan.

The five other GCC countries, including the UAE, are not on either list. Oman was on an earlier list of approved countries.

Philippines law allows its people to work in a country only if it has legal protections for workers' rights.

The UAE is currently regarded as "partially compliant", as it legally enshrines the rights of most workers but not domestic staff.

Earlier this year it voted for an international convention on rights for domestic staff, but it has yet to give that convention the force of law.

The Philippines foreign affairs department has recommended a ban on workers coming here, but the POEA has deferred a ruling for at least six months.




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