Dubai: More than 7,000 Filipino expatriates from Dubai and the northern emirates sought and received help from the Philippine Consulate-General in 2017, with nearly Dh3 million extended by way of financial help ranging from medical repatriation to legal fees, a top diplomat said.
The Assistance-to-Nationals (ATN) section of the Philippine Consulate assisted 6,004 walk-in clients from January to December 2017, official figures obtained by Gulf News show.
The services rendered ranged from assistance for civil cases, labour issues, passport retrieval, temporary shelter, repatriation and others.
The consulate repatriated around 1,270 Filipinos from January to December, including medical repatriation of coma patients from hospitals in Dubai.
Aside from this, the services peaked in December with an additional 1,766 Filipinos who received help. Some 1,000 Filipinos sought assistance through the ATN hotline while 122 needed court assistance, hospital or jail visits, or assistance in securing travel documents such as out-passes and other documents to exit the country.
Consul-General Paul Raymund Cortes said the consulate is always ready to extend help to Filipinos in need.
“If they can’t fight for their right, they can come to the consulate and we will fight for their right,” Cortes told Gulf News.
Cortes said some 452 Filipinos received legal advice from the consulate through 2017 either from ATN officials or from the consulate’s lawyer.
“We study each case and offer legal advice as needed. We refer those cases that need more detailed legal guidance to our lawyer who is at the consulate every Wednesday from 1pm to 5pm. I would like to reiterate that those who can’t afford a lawyer can come to the consulate for help any time,” Cortes said.
The ATN Section spent a total of Dh2.97 million from the ATN Funds in 2017 for all the cases it handled.
“It’s for people who don’t have insurance or who don’t have means to get a lawyer. This fund is for them,” Cortes explained, adding, “This 2018, we want to help more Filipinos.”
Cortes said the ATN section also helped retrieve 286 Philippine passports from employers who illegally keep their employees’ passports.
“We would like to reiterate that keeping someone else’s passport is an illegal offence in the UAE. The Philippine passport is the property of the Philippine government and should not be [confiscated by employers],” he said.
Cortes urged Filipinos who seek help from the consulate to be patient if some requests take time as the ATN Section currently only has eight staff members and one translator, bringing the staff to client ratio to one staff for every 50,000 Filipinos.
“We constantly request for additional staff but we make do with what we have right now. But we assure them [Filipinos] that that we will work on their cases once they reach out to us.”
Need help? Call the ATN Hotline: 0565015755 / 0565015756