DUBAI //Jejomar Binay, vice president of the Philippines, told 69 women in a Dubai women's shelter yesterday that he would ask the government to buy plane tickets so they can go home.
The women are fed and counselled in the shelter, managed by Filipino labour and welfare officials.
The majority of their complaints concerned unpaid salaries, long working hours, inadequate food and sleep, and being subjected to abuse.
Mr Binay, who is also the presidential adviser on overseas Filipino workers' concerns, said those who are members of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (Owwa) and who have an "outpass", or a travel document, should not have to wait for recruitment agencies to buy their tickets.
He made the comments after arriving in Dubai from Saudi Arabia yesterday.
"You should not wait for Owwa to contact the agency to provide the tickets," he said at the Philippine consulate in Al Ghusais. "You should be given tickets at the soonest possible time."
He said he expected Owwa to pay then seek the money back from the recruitment agencies.
Allan Ignacio, welfare officer at the Philippine overseas labour office in Dubai, welcomed the comments.
"It's good because we'll have a faster turnover [at our shelter]," he said. "Sometimes, there are some who are fined for overstaying and it's an additional cost to our government."
The government, he said, needs to pay an immigration fine of Dh100 for the first day and Dh25 for the second and subsequent days workers remain in the country after their visas are cancelled.
At least two housemaids who arrived in the UAE through illegal channels asked the vice president to help them return home. Mr Binay said he would "work on it".
He also asked for understanding on the issue of Filipinos being barred by immigration officials at Manila's airport from leaving the country on tourist visas.
Mr Binay said the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking, of which he is honorary chairman, had refined the system of "offloading", or preventing victims of trafficking from leaving the country. Victims are often provided with tourist visas by illegal recruiters.
"We've got a new system at the airport which allows passengers to appeal," he said. "I know they need to spend more money to have their ticket rebooked."
Mr Binay told the 12-member governing council of the Filipino Community in Dubai and the Northern Emirates that his government was determined to enforce a ban on workers going to Syria. Aside from Syria, the government has deployment bans on Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon and Jordan.
In total, 1,531 Filipinos from Syria have been sent home by the Philippine government since December, according to Manila's labour department. .
Many overseas Filipino workers who returned home from Syria had passed through Dubai or Abu Dhabi en route to Damascus. They had been told that they would work in the UAE, but ended up in Syria.
Mr Binay asked workers not to go to Syria to look for work, or to accept any job offers in Syria. Instead, they should go through the legal recruitment channels to avoid becoming victims of trafficking and illegal recruitment syndicates.
So far, the government has filed 29 illegal recruitment cases against agencies and people who recruited Filipinos to work in Syria.