x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

120 Filipinas arrested after 'set-up'

Women jailed after thinking they were being driven to work.

DUBAI // A woman who was among a group of Filipinas arrested in a sting last week for working illegally said they were led to believe they would be working at a big event in the emirate.

One hundred and twenty Filipinas were taken to the Dubai central jail in Al Aweer on July 6 on suspicion of working illegally, according to the Philippine consulate in Dubai.

"We were terrified when we were asked to transfer to a minivan," said the 50-year-old mother-of six, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

"We thought that our bus would take us to Dubai Mall from our meeting place in Al Rigga."

In its report to Manila's Department of Foreign Affairs last week, the consulate said the women "attempted to work as part-time service crew in Dubai Mall, then at the Dubai World Trade Centre and later at Al Ghurair".

They were on board three buses that were supposed to bring them to the event when Dubai authorities apprehended them, the report said.

But the woman said there were about six buses ferrying 172 Filipinas and two Indonesian women.

"It appears to be a set-up," she said. "There wasn't any event at Dubai Mall and the authorities acted on a tip-off from a member of our group."

She was released along with 10 other women who were also on their husband's visas before midnight on July 6.

"I feel bad for those who are still in jail," she said. "Many were absconding housemaids; others were on employment visas from other sponsors or on visit visas, while the rest were working in schools and wanted to earn some money during the summer break."

Benito Valeriano, the country's consul-general in Dubai, said: "It's sad but it's not enough justification to violate the immigration law."

Consular officials are investigating the incident and are co-ordinating with the Dubai police and immigration authorities.

"Those on visit visas are not allowed to work, while those on employment visas cannot work part-time unless permitted by the sponsor," he said.

Those who have permission to work from their respective sponsors and from the labour ministry will be released. Those found illegally working in Dubai will be brought to the emirate where there original visas were obtained.

"It's a reality we have to face," Mr Valeriano said. "We need to follow the country's laws."

The incident follows last year's arrest of 160 Filipinas and one Indonesian woman at a December wedding reception in Dubai World Trade Centre. The sweep involved five catering and party services companies that hired the women, who were on their husband's visas, valid or expired tourist visas, and housemaid visas.

Others had their own employment visas but wanted to earn extra funds by working part-time for catering companies.