x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

New jobs for duped Filipino drivers

A group of 68 Filipinos who were offered non-existent jobs as bus drivers may soon find alternative employment, a Filipino labour official has said.

DUBAI // A group of 68 Filipinos who were offered non-existent jobs as bus drivers and are facing immigration fines of up to Dh6,600 (US$1,800) may soon find alternative employment, a Filipino labour official has said. Marianito Roque, the Philippine labour secretary, said the issue had been settled after talks with a government official in Dubai last week. The men are among 137 drivers who were hired by CYM International Services, a Manila recruitment agency, in consort with 11 licensed agencies.

Telling the men they would earn Dh5,200 a month each, the agency illegally extracted a 150,000-peso (Dh11,500) "placement fee" and issued them with fake employment visas. The drivers were given expired visit visas for their journeys to Dubai, between January and March. They were also supplied with forged employment visas. Since they arrived in the country, the men have been staying at a labour camp in Ajman without a steady supply of electricity, food and water. At one point, some were scavenging for leftover food from a dump. At least 20 have already opted to return to the Philippines.

Mr Roque said after his talks in Dubai last Monday: "It is a big story that has been lingering for a long time so I've decided to step in. "Soon enough there will be a closure to their predicament. They could find employment and those who wish to return home can do so." He said the issue of the overstaying fines had been settled, but did not say how. He did not name the Dubai official he had met. The fine for overstaying a visa in Dubai is Dh200 for the first day, and Dh100 a day thereafter. The fines owed by the 68 Filipinos total Dh381,400, with some owing up to Dh6,600, said Elmer Joven, a welfare officer at the Philippine overseas labour office in Dubai.

While some have been waiting for the issue of the fines to be settled, many of the drivers have already found new jobs in the UAE. Eighteen have been hired by Emirates Flight Catering and have been issued new work visas. Eight are working at Quality Mix, a concrete supplier, and another eight have offers from the company. "We hope that we could start working soon," said Bernardino Malonzo Aga, 36, who received a job offer from Emirates Flight Catering on April 14. "We don't have food and water and our AC units are not functioning well. We hardly slept last night."

The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration has already filed charges against CYM International Services for violating labour deployment laws and regulations. rruiz@thenational.ae