Dubai: Employers are obliged to pay exorbitant amounts of up to $4,600 (about Dh17,000) to get a Filipina housemaid from the black market in the midst of a de-facto ban by Manila authorities on their deployment to the UAE.

Desperate to fly a Filipina housemaid into the UAE, employers bite the bullet as some job agents have more than doubled the usual cost. Some of those agents recruit the nannies as sales ladies, clerks or salon staff when they apply through the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA), an agency under the labour department, Gulf News has learnt.

As soon as they land in the UAE, their employers may get them a ‘servant’ visa. Housemaid agencies used to charge between Dh8,000 to Dh8,500 to legally bring over a Filipina housemaid until mid-2014.

On June 1, 2014, the UAE Ministry of Interior introduced the new standard contract for housemaids aimed to better protect the rights of both housemaids and their employers. Following this, the Ministry of Labour issued a circular stopping embassies of labour-sending countries from verifying or ratifying contracts of domestic workers. It also stipulated employers sponsoring housemaids should not be compelled by embassies to be screened or “to sign any contract pledges by those embassies”.

Philippine law requires overseas labour offices (usually attached to the embassy or consulate) to verify details of the employer before a housemaid applicant is allowed to fly and work for them. Both Manila and Abu Dhabi are keen to implement their policies on hiring maids. Given the impasse, many families here are forced to hire nannies through the black market, even if this work-around is wrought with risks.

Mercy, a Filipina architect and mother of three in Dubai, had to stay at home due to the difficulty of hiring a nanny. She tried to bring over a female relative to look after their children in Dubai on a visit visa, having spent more than Dh7,000 in the process. But Manila airport authorities, suspecting the relative was flouting the rules, did not let the relative through to immigration checks. After three attempts, they all gave up. “We’re already a single-income family. That’s a lot of hard-earned money going down the drain,” said Mercy.

When a job agent presents an applicant as cashier or waitress, but is in fact destined for domestic work, the agent exposes himself to massive penalties, loss of license or even jail time should something wrong happen to the recruit, warned the head of job agents’ group.

“It [processing-reprocessing] is a form of misrepresentation and is, of course, illegal under Philippine law,” Vic Fernandez, leader of the Philippine Association of Service Exporters (Pasei) told Gulf News. “The risk far outweighs the rewards,” he said, adding agents now charge Saudi clients an average of 15,000 riyals to hire a housemaid from the Philippines.

Agents in Manila, who usually work with counterparts overseas, are subject to tough regulations including a cash bond

Meanwhile, the head of what was once a leading Dubai housemaid recruitment agency told Gulf News the demand for nannies remains high, but the supply is “dry”.

“We used to deploy 50 to 80 per month from the Philippines as per the law,” she said. “There’s no doubt demand is there. But now, we’re down to zero deployment. For the last seven months (since June), we’ve been struggling. We’re at the end of our rope.”

She said all nanny agents are still waiting for clarity on the issue. Many nanny agents in the UAE, she said, are “quietly suffering”, hoping the snag would soon be resolved.

Indonesia banned recruitment of their housemaids to the UAE in October 2013, though there are reports that some Indonesian women are still being brought illegally to the country to work as nannies.