x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

UAE Filipino group steps up campaign to scrap travel document

A migrant-rights group has approached three party-list groups in Manila to rally support against a frequently used travel document.

Refusing to be identified, a Dubai-based travel agent sells an affidavit of support and guarantee for Dh 300. Duncan Chard for the National
Refusing to be identified, a Dubai-based travel agent sells an affidavit of support and guarantee for Dh 300. Duncan Chard for the National

ABU DHABI // A migrant-rights group has approached three party-list groups in Manila to rally support against a frequently used travel document.

This is the latest move in a dispute over affidavits of support and guarantees, which Filipinos on tourist visas present to airport immigration officers in the Philippines.

Migrante UAE launched a campaign against the document in 2010, saying possession of the paper did not guarantee that people would be able to travel, forcing some to pay bribes to board a flight. The documents are still available. The Philippine embassy and consulate in the UAE notarises the documents for a Dh100 fee.

On Saturday, the group said embassy staff who are behind the alleged sale of such documents should be investigated. Notarised documents, they say, are readily available from at least 10 travel agencies in Dubai for a hefty Dh300.

The group claims that of the Dh300, the embassy gets Dh100 to issue a receipt, an embassy "fixer" gets Dh150 and the agency's broker gets Dh50.

"We are sending letters today to our government leaders so they could endorse it to congress," said Nhel Morona, the UAE country coordinator for migrant-rights group Migrante Middle East.

"We're hoping that they will hold a congressional hearing and a senate hearing in aid of legislation that would lead to the scrapping of the affidavit of support and guarantee."

The party-list groups are Gabriela, Bayan Muna and Anak Pawis. There are plans to approach Jinggoy Estrada, a senator who is the chairman of the committee on labour, employment and human resource management.

The group chose to send the letters to Manila instead of the Philippine embassy in Abu Dhabi.

"The burden of proof does not lie on us," Mr Morona said. "We've been campaigning against the documents for years and, so far, no action has been taken."

From November 2012 to June 2013 the group investigated the so-called "affidavit of support for sale anomaly".

As a protest, in October 2011, leaders of 12 groups including Migrante-UAE, crumpled and dumped copies of the affidavit of support in a bin. They also signed a petition calling for the document to be scrapped. The year before, Migrante hosted a Kapihan sa UAE, or a meeting to discuss issues, where it called on the consulate in Dubai to issue clearer guidelines on the affidavits.

"I am waiting for them to come and show me the documents so we could discuss the issue," Grace Princesa, the Philippine ambassador to the UAE, said yesterday.

"It would be hard to make a comment on the alleged involvement of our embassy personnel without seeing any of the affidavits."

rruiz@thenational.ae