x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Slow response to UAE amnesty as illegals fear they cannot return

The Philippine Embassy estimates there are about 10,000 Filipinos in the country illegally, but only 1,635 have come forward to seek help so far.

ABU DHABI // Only a few people visited the Indonesian and Philippine embassies for travel documents yesterday ahead of the deadline.

"We don't expect any rush," said Wisnu Suryo Hutomo, the coordinator for citizen's affairs at the Indonesian Embassy.

"Some said they need money to buy an airline ticket, while others are being lured by the promises of their bosses, who tell them 'you'll be fine'."

As of yesterday, the Indonesian Embassy, assisted 952 amnesty seekers while its consulate in Dubai said 714, applied.

Wisnu Sindhutrisno, the head of consular affairs at the embassy, said the slow response could be because most fear they will be unable to return to the UAE or are expecting the deadline to be extended.

"My friends already applied for amnesty so I decided to come here to the embassy," said Linawati, 34, a housemaid from Sukabumi, West Java. She arrived in Abu Dhabi in 2007 and now plans to set up a business from her savings.

"It's time to go home," she said. Meanwhile, about 1,635 Filipino illegal residents sought help. The Philippine Embassy estimated that there were about 10,000 Filipinos in the country illegally.

But a December 2011 estimate by the Commission on Filipinos Overseas in Manila showed there were 19,760 illegal Filipinos in the UAE.

A Filipina housemaid at the embassy yesterday said she was grateful for the amnesty. She left her Emirati employer's home last year and had also worked as a nanny for a Swiss family in Dubai.

"I told my madam of my decision. I love her children and do not want them to pay a Dh50,000 fine for hiring an illegal resident."