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Paralegal 'first aid' builds a base for Filipinos to know rights

A series of workshops will train volunteers to advise Filipinos of their legal rights.

DUBAI // Filipinos facing legal and employment-related problems will soon be able to turn to a team of paralegal volunteers for help.

A series of paralegal training workshops starting on Friday in Dubai aims to educate Filipinos about their rights, the labour laws, the Filipino Migrant Workers Act and the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families.

"Our main aim is to form the first paralegal team in the UAE, who will make our compatriots understand their cases better," said Nhel Morona, the secretary general of migrant rights group Migrante-UAE. "This team will explain the local laws and ways to address their problems and concerns."

The organisers, Migrante-UAE and the women's rights group Gabriela-UAE, are targeting leaders and members of the Filipino community to be part of this pool of paralegal volunteers.

Three Filipino legal consultants in Dubai have been invited to talk about the role of paralegal volunteers, the local and international laws, and train participants to handle cases, prepare an affidavit and incident report and provide counselling.

"The paralegal volunteers will serve as some sort of first aid for our troubled compatriots," said Ian Joseph Uy, 36, a legal consultant at Law Firm International. "But they should first have some basic knowledge of the UAE laws to guide them through the legal process."

Jay dela Cruz, 33, who works at Al Dhaheri International Advocates and Legal Consultants, said the majority of cases referred by the Philippine consulate were employment-related.

"Filipinos whose employers refuse to pay them their end of service benefits should lay down the foundation of the case by sending an "official letter of claim", even by e-mail to the employer," he said. "This can be used as evidence to the labour department and the court."

The worker can also file a legal claim against the employer at the labour dispute committee.

If the attempt to settle amicably fails, the dispute should be raised to the jurisdiction of the court," Mr dela Cruz said.

Jeremy Delfin, 32, who works as a legal consultant with an oil and gas company in Dubai, said the majority of Filipinos are unaware of labour laws.

Mr Delfin advised Filipinos to read their job contracts, or any document, carefully before signing.

"One Filipina signed cancellation papers that she received all her benefits," he said. "When she went to the Ministry of Labour to seek help to claim her gratuity, they told her that she had no chance since she had already signed the document."

The paralegal training will consist of three sessions, which are scheduled for July 1, 8 and 15, from 9am to 5pm at Hamarain Centre's Caravan Restaurant in Dubai.



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