x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Filipinos ignore embassy plea over notarised documents

A call for sponsors of visiting relatives against buying notarised affidavits of support from travel agents went unheeded. In August officials at the Philippine embassy said the person executing the document must appear in person when applying for notary services.

ABU DHABI // A call by embassy officials requiring Filipino sponsors to appear in person for notarised documents has gone unheeded.

Officials at the Philippine embassy cautioned in August against buying notarised affidavits of support from travel agents.

The documents are presented at airport immigration in the Philippines as proof that the traveller is not being trafficked and is entering the UAE legally.

To reduce fraud, the embassy cut the processing time of the document from five to three days in October.

The Dubai consulate and Abu Dhabi embassy charge Dh100 for notarising the affidavit, a process that had taken 10 working days.

But the decision to expedite the process did not stop the unauthorised sale of the affidavits in Dubai, according to Karen Tanedo, chairwoman of the Migrante UAE rights group.

Roseny Fangco, vice consul and charge d’affaires at the embassy, called on Filipinos in the UAE not to patroniseuse the agencies.

“We are also calling on those who have been victimised and who have had personal experience dealing with these syndicates to come forward and help us break this illegal practice,” she said. “The embassy needs sworn statements to be able to act on it.”

Ms Fangco said they had tightened security at the embassy and carried out measures to prevent any staff from colluding with agencies to provide documents.

“We are still gathering information because we understand that not all who bought the affidavits are willing to execute sworn statements,” she said. “The ambassador and I will need to discuss the next steps to prevent its unauthorised sale.”

Notarised documents are readily available from at least 10 travel agencies in Dubai for the inflated price of Dh300.

“In Satwa alone, there are at least two travel agencies that charge Dh300 for a notarised affidavit,” Ms Tanedo said. “Filipinos would rather pay the amount than queue at the consulate or embassy for the document.”

A member of Migrante said a friend bought the document from an agency. The visiting relative is due to arrive in Dubai next month.

An employee for an agency in Al Rigga last week confirmed they charge Dh300 for a notarised affidavit of support. A UAE tourist visa and Manila to Dubai air ticket package costs Dh2,125, she said.

“We have someone who can get the affidavit from the Philippine embassy in Abu Dhabi so we are able to provide it within three to five working days,” the agent said. “Abu Dhabi does not require any personal appearance.”

But Manila’s foreign affairs department insisted last month that was not the case.

“The personal appearance of the applicant at the embassy or the Philippine consulate in Dubai is required before an affidavit of support and guarantee could be issued,” the department said.

rruiz@thenational.ae