Dubai: A Filipino migrant rights group in Dubai has called for the Philippine government to investigate the alleged black market for Philippine embassy documents that are being used illegally by travel agencies and sold to visit visa applicants from the Philippines.
Migrante International UAE (Migrante-UAE) on Saturday urged Philippine authorities to scrap the Affidavit of Support and Guarantee (AOS), an attested guarantee letter needed by visit visa holders to present to immigration officials at Philippine airports before they fly to the UAE. The document is not required by UAE authorities upon entry to the country.
The AOS was introduced in 2002 to curb human trafficking and give the assurance that visit visa holders have the support of their family during their stay in the UAE. It has been removed and reinstated several times since then. All AOS are acquired through personal appearance at the Philippine missions in Dubai and Abu Dhabi and are attested for Dh100 or Dh140 for the expedited document.
Nhel Morona, the country representative of Migrante-UAE, said the AOS should be scrapped as it only breeds corruption. Morona and his group, along with representatives from two travel agencies in Dubai, presented 10 AOS that had been bought from underground suppliers for Dh250 to Dh300 each.
“We are calling for a thorough investigation into the AOS For Sale anomaly that is happening at the Philippine embassy in Abu Dhabi. We call for the immediate scrapping of the said documents as it only breeds corruption,” Morona said.
Morona and his group alleged that since November last year, “runners” or middle men have been supplying blank AOS to travel agencies in the country that sell them for Dh250 to Dh300. The documents, which sell like hot cakes according to industry sources, are sourced from the embassy in Abu Dhabi.
Gulf News contacted Philippine Ambassador Grace Princesa who said that she would like to know more about the issue before she issues a comment. Princesa said she is “willing to discuss the issue and the embassy is always open”.
Gina, a travel agent, said her agency orders 20 to 50 AOS in a week. For her clients, speed is the name of the game. “We have to compete with the market. We take every opportunity we can get just to secure the necessary supply of documents. Otherwise we’ll lose our clients,” Gina said.
J.B.L., another travel agent, said the demand for AOS in the black market is high because applicants prefer to pay for convenience as opposed to queuing at the missions and waiting for five to 10 working days before they can get the document. With these sold in the black market, they can get the document in a day.