x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

UAE rights group call for probe into document 'sale' by Philippine officials

Rights-group Migrante say it has evidence staff from Philippine embassy are taking cash in return for blank affadavits for visits to the UAE.

DUBAI // Corrupt embassy officials are colluding with agencies and brokers to sell a document that Filipino expatriates need for relatives who want to visit the UAE, a migrant rights group claimed yesterday.

The controversial "affidavit of support and guarantee" is produced and notarised at the Philippine embassy, then sent to prospective visitors. They must present it at the airport immigration counter in the Philippines as proof that they are not being trafficked and are entering the UAE legally.

The embassy charges Dh100 to notarise the document, which usually takes five working days. For an extra Dh40 it offers an expedited service the same or next day. Applicants must appear in person at the embassy.

The migrant rights group Migrante UAE produced evidence yesterday appearing to show that some staff at the embassy were producing blank notarised affidavits complete with time and date-stamped receipts, which unscrupulous agents then give to applicants to fill in - in return for a hefty fee.

The group also says some agents are making fake affidavits copied from genuine originals. They showed four examples yesterday.

One travel agent admitted yesterday she started offering the service three months ago after learning that other agencies were doing so.

She charges Dh50 for courier costs and Dh250 for the notarised affidavit arranged by a broker who claims to have connections with an embassy staff member.

"Many Filipinos do not want to wait for 10 working days at the consulate or five working days at the embassy to get their affidavit of support notarised," the agent said. "Our government should scrap the document since it has become a money-making scheme."

Migrante says that of the Dh300 agency fee, the embassy gets Dh100 for the receipt, an embassy "fixer" earns Dh150 and the broker gets a Dh50 share.

"If 50 documents are notarised per day, the fixer gets Dh7,500 per day or Dh135,000 in a month, or Dh1.62 million in a year," said Nhel Morona, the UAE country coordinator for Migrante Middle East.

"We would like to call for a thorough investigation of all embassy officials and staff involved in the affidavit of support sale issue," he said. "The affidavit of support document should be totally scrapped as it does not serve the interests of Filipino travellers, but is just a source of corruption."

Since August 2010, immigration officers have been ordered to be on the lookout for suspected victims of human trafficking and to stop them leaving the Philippines.

If the affidavit is rejected, many travellers pay bribes of up to 30,000 Philippine pesos (Dh2,500) to corrupt immigration officials so they can board their flights in Manila.

Grace Princesa, the Philippine ambassador to the UAE, said she would like to know more about the issue. Migrante, she said, did not approach her or any of her staff.