x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Almost 1,000 Filipinos take advantage of UAE visa amnesty

Between December 4 and January 3, the embassy has assisted 965 Filipinos who wanted to take advantage of the amnesty by leaving the country without penalties or by fixing their visas after paying the fines.

ABU DHABI // Almost 1,000 Filipinos have visited their embassy in the first month of the amnesty for illegal residents.

Between December 4 and January 3, the embassy has assisted 965 Filipinos who wanted to take advantage of the amnesty by leaving the country without penalties or by fixing their visas after paying the fines.

After February 4, there will be fines of Dh100 a day for visa breaches and Dh25 for residency offences.

On Sunday, Grace Princesa, the Philippine ambassador to the UAE, spoke to a group of Filipinos waiting for service at the embassy.

"Let's co-operate," she said. "We'd like to get you all home safely."

Ms Princesa said the Philippine government was focusing on generating stable jobs at home, and safeguards were in place to ensure the rights and welfare of those wishing to work abroad.

Lydia Adigue, 49, a housemaid from Borongan, Samar, would like to return home after staying illegally in the UAE for two years.

She left her French employer's home nine months after arriving in 2010 and stayed with a cousin who runs a salon.

"I was unable to go home when one of my brothers died in May last year," Ms Adigue said. "I want to see my four brothers and one sister and their children."

Amina Arguelles, 39, from Panabo, Davao del Norte, in southern Philippines, said she was still undecided whether to stay in the country to correct her visa or return home.

Ms Arguelles arrived in Abu Dhabi in March 2009 to work as a housemaid for an Emirati family.

Her employer treated her well, and even allowed her to return home when her husband died in August that year.

"But I did not get along well with their daughter-in-law," she said. "She called me a 'dirty woman' and would order me around even if she wasn't paying my salary."

Ms Arguelles has since worked as a cleaner and an assistant physiotherapist at an Abu Dhabi clinic after quitting her job in March 2011.

"The clinic wants to help me but I don't have my passport with me," she said. "I'm not sure if they're willing to pay the fines for overstaying."

At the Philippine consulate in Dubai, thousands are expected to seek amnesty.

Frank Cimafranca, the new consul general, said last month that at the start of the amnesty, up to 120 Filipinos were turning up each day to apply for a travel document or an extension on their passport’s validity.

The Ministry of Interior announced on Saturday that 20,391 illegal residents from 106 nationalities have so far turned themselves in across the UAE as part of the amnesty. Of these, 9,453 have left the country.

rruiz@thenational.ae