x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Philippine mission braced for influx of illegals as UAE amnesty nears

Only a small fraction of the 10,000 Filipinos estimated to be in the UAE illegally have taken advantage of the visa amnesty, the Philippine ambassador says.

ABU DHABI // Only a small fraction of the 10,000 Filipinos estimated to be in the UAE illegally have taken advantage of the visa amnesty, the Philippine ambassador says.

A two-month amnesty, set to end on February 4, gives illegal residents a chance to register and avoid prosecution and deportation.

"Only 1,000 came to the embassy since the start of the amnesty," said Grace Princesa. "There might be another 1,000 who visited the consulate in Dubai, so 8,000 have yet to come forward."

Frank Cimafranca, the Philippine consul general, said the consulate had yet to collate the number of Filipinos it had assisted, either by leaving the country without penalties or by regularising their visas after paying the fines.

"In the last few weeks of December we received an average 100 to 150 amnesty-seekers a day, while another 100 came to the Philippine overseas labour office," Mr Cimafranca said.

Officials at the Philippine missions are bracing for the rush as the deadline nears. Like the Philippine embassy in Abu Dhabi, the Dubai consulate has waived fees for travel documents and passport extensions for amnesty seekers who are returning home.

This does not apply to those who wish to regularise their visas and stay in the UAE after paying fines.

Of the 190 Filipina housemaids at the labour-office shelter in Abu Dhabi, 104 are due to be flown home this month under the amnesty, said Amy Crisostomo, the welfare officer in Abu Dhabi.

They fled their employers' homes after complaining of lack of food and sleep, and being overworked and unpaid for months.

Eighty-two have air tickets and outpasses, while the remaining 22 have yet to apply for outpasses.

"Their outpasses are being processed within this week," Ms Crisostomo said. After gaining an outpass and immigration clearance, amnesty seekers must leave the country within 10 days.

rruiz@thenational.ae