x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Filipinas in shelter are heading home

Fifty women who spent at least two months at a shelter in Abu Dhabi after fleeing their employer will fly home next month.

ABU DHABI // Fifty women who spent at least two months at a shelter in the capital after fleeing their employer will fly home next month after the Philippines' former president, Joseph Estrada, offered to pay for their tickets. "We are preparing the list of women who are ready to go by August 9," said Nasser Munder, the labour attaché in Abu Dhabi. "Ideally, we'd like all 50 to be flown home together. Our target date is for them to be repatriated by August 16."

Mr Estrada, his wife, the former senator Loi Ejercito Estrada, and their son, Senator Jinggoy Ejercito Estrada, paid a surprise visit to the women's shelter at the Philippine Overseas Labour Office on June 9. Mr Munder said Senator Estrada may visit the capital next month and take the women on a flight with him back to Manila. It is not the first time the senator has helped repatriate workers staying at the shelter.

Last July, he paid for flights home for 30 Filipinas. During a stopover in the capital in April, while heading back to the Philippines from an official trip in Addis Ababa, he also helped pay for 10 Filipina housemaids in Abu Dhabi to fly to Manila. Mr Munder was instructed by Mr Estrada to forward a list of the current group's names, passport numbers, arrival dates at the shelter and the nature of their complaints.

Mr Munder added that his office is negotiating with employment and recruitment agencies for the repatriation of another 10 nationals. He said the Filipino community would help shoulder the women's fees for visa cancellation and an exit pass, a permit from the immigration authorities that costs Dh162 (US$44) in Abu Dhabi and Dh300 in Al Ain. There are 122 women being fed and counselled at the shelter, which is managed by Filipino labour and welfare officials.

Many had complained of lack of food and sleep, and being overworked and unpaid for months. rruiz@thenational.ae