x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Body of Filipino killed on Kish is stranded in a Tehran morgue

The body of a Filipino job-seeker stabbed to death on a visa run to Kish Island two weeks ago is still in a Tehran morgue, with no indication of when it can be sent home.

ABU DHABI // The body of a Filipino job-seeker stabbed to death on a visa run to Kish Island two weeks ago is still in a Tehran morgue, with no indication of when it can be sent home. Mark Lloyd Carmen, 24, was stabbed at a hotel on July 1 in a fight with a Sudanese man, allegedly by a second Sudanese man who stepped in to break up the melee and is on trial for murder.

Mr Carmen was pronounced dead on arrival at the local hospital, according to John Leonard Monterona, the Middle East co-ordinator for Migrante, an organisation set up to protect the welfare of Filipino migrants, He said the group sought help from diplomats after receiving word of the death from other Filipinos staying on the island. Carmen's aunt, Estela Gonzaga, 37, who lives in Al Ain, flew to Kish Island on July 2 to identify his body and attend a court hearing on the case.

"The main suspect, who admitted to the crime, was charged with murder," she said. "Both Sudanese men are currently detained in a Kish jail." Ms Gonzaga said her nephew had been staying at a hotel on the island since June 11 while waiting for a new tourist visa to re-enter the Emirates. He spent the previous two months looking for a job in Abu Dhabi and staying with his brother-in-law. "They would come to see me every Friday in Al Ain," Ms Gonzaga said. "I can't believe he's gone."

He leaves behind his wife and two children, aged three years and six months, respectively, in General Santos City, in the southern Philippines. He dreamt of bringing his wife to the Emirates once he was settled in his new job, she said. "Like any Filipino coming to work in the UAE, he wanted to give his family a better future," she said. Yuri Cipriano, the vice chairman of the UAE chapter of Migrante, said: "We could have avoided this if our government provided adequate jobs back home."

He called on officials from the Philippine embassies in Abu Dhabi and Tehran to check on the living conditions of stranded Filipinos who are forced to stay in overcrowded hotel rooms on Kish Island. For years, the island has been a popular destinations for those who go on so-called visa runs to extend their tourist visas while waiting for residency in the UAE. Many Filipino job-seekers opt, like Mr Carmen, to take the short flight to Kish Island to renew expired tourist visas instead of returning to the Philippines. The island lies about 240km from Dubai and about 17km from the southern shore of Iran. Ms Gonzaga said that during her visit she met many Filipinos with expired visas who have been stranded for months and have been running up large bills.

"I really pity those who were duped by illegal recruiters who sold them visas, but didn't provide them with jobs," she said. The situation illustrates the problems involving migrant workers who do not have proper working documents before heading to the UAE. Last month, Amilbahar Amilasan, the new labour attache in Dubai, said the Philippine government should do more to prevent job-seekers from coming to work on tourist visas. They should apply through a recruitment agency accredited with the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration, he said.

The Philippine Embassy in Tehran has recommended the department of foreign affairs (DFA) in Manila provide a repatriation fund for the deceased if the family cannot afford the cost of sending his body home, Mr Monterona said. Yesterday, he said the DFA was asking Mr Carmen's family to pay US$8,000 (Dh29,385) to send his remains home because he was an undocumented worker. "The repatriation of his remains is likely to take time," Mr Monterona said. "An embassy officer in Tehran told me there were more than a dozen dead bodies of Filipinos kept in the morgue for several months."

rruiz@thenational.ae