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UAE should consider 'providing assistance to Philippines'

With 200,000 Filipinos heading to the UAE for work every year, the two countries must be fully committed to funding and managing temporary labour migration, says a report.

With 200,000 Filipinos heading to the UAE for work every year, the two countries must be fully committed to funding and managing temporary labour migration, a report released by the Migration Policy Institute in Washington said yesterday. The measure was among recommendations made by Dovelyn Rannveig Agunias, the institute's associate policy analyst, in Migration's Middlemen: Regulating Recruitment Agencies in the Philippines-United Arab Emirates Corridor.

The institute is an independent agency in Washington, which studies global migration issues. Ms Agunias interviewed Filipino officials in the UAE, who said that the requested funding for more personnel and improved facilities was denied by their government's appropriations committee. "Developing countries like the Philippines need to learn how to effectively share the cost of protection by aggressively tapping into the private sector and civil society resources," Ms Agunias said. "To this end, the UAE should seriously consider providing technical and financial assistance to the Philippines as it builds its institutional capacity."

The Philippines already has sophisticated institutions to handle specific aspects of migration, and some of these institutions do not have clear counterparts in the UAE government, she said. In her report, Ms Agunias suggested that the UAE create complementary institutions. Adelio Cruz, the first secretary at the Philippine embassy in Abu Dhabi, who was interviewed for the report, urged the UAE to consider creating a special department in its labour ministry devoted to domestic workers.

In a separate interview, Alex Zalami, an adviser to the UAE labour minister, suggested linking the two government systems so that both have access to signed contracts. This would create oversight for contract substitutions, which can leave migrants constrained by deals that are inferior to the ones they signed in the Philippines. Yesterday's report highlighted policy mismatches between the nations' regulatory processes which lead to workers not getting adequate protections.

The result is a three-tier labour migration system: a documented, organised labour migration with written contracts; a labour flow based on shifting arrangements that result in lower wages; and an unregulated flow of workers who bypass the system and move to the UAE on a visitor visas. "Policy makers from both countries can start by addressing the mismatches in their respective policies, such as fees, contracts, and agency liability for migrant workers," Ms Agunias said. "Regulatory and enforcement efforts are more effective if both host and source countries are equally committed to introducing and enforcing compatible rules."

While the recruitment agencies in both countries provide logistical support and information about visa policies and living and working conditions, some abuse their clients by charging exorbitant fees or violating basic human rights, she said. The Philippine embassy estimates that there are about 450,000 Filipinos in the UAE. However, the report quotes the Commission on Filipinos Overseas in Manila, which puts the number closer to 600,000 - almost 12 per cent of the UAE population.

@Email:rruiz@thenational.ae

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