Al Awir Central Jail in Dubai. Image Credit: Gulf News file

Dubai: The number of Filipinos apprehended for drug-related crimes in Dubai has increased for the past two years, a worrying trend for officials.

Philippine Consul-General Paul Raymund Cortes warned Filipinos against using or selling drugs in the UAE following an increase in drug-related cases involving his compatriots in 2015 and 2016.

Out of the total 146 inmates currently detained at Dubai Central Jail, 66 were convicted for drug-related crimes and are serving life sentences. The last two were convicted in April and May. There are eight Filipinos detained in Sharjah in connection with drugs charges.

The most number of apprehensions took place in 2015, which saw an 65 per cent increase in Filipinos going to jail for dealing shabu or methamphetamine compared to the previous year.

“There is no tolerance on drugs in the UAE, be it selling, be it using, especially selling. To be honest, we don’t know how they traffic it [narcotics] inside the country,” Cortes said.

Twelve out of the 66 inmates are women, the youngest 22 years old. The men are aged 25 to 30, according to an Assistance-To-Nationals (ATN) officer. Most of them are blue-collar workers in Dubai who had to leave the country for a visa run and were busted during police operations.

The ATN officer said many of the Filipinos who admitted to drug dealing said they were lured because of the “huge money” involved. He, however, said that there are inmates who said they were merely users and were only framed by their drug sources.

Cortes said the consulate continues to provide consular and legal assistance to these Filipinos but he worries what could happen next since the incoming Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has taken a strong stand against drug trafficking.

A local media report last week said Duterte is “not too keen on helping Filipinos who are on death row abroad for carrying drugs”. Although there are no Filipino inmates on death row in Dubai due to drugs, this comment is deemed a blanket stand of Duterte against drug users and pushers. In the report, Duterte further said he would rather convicted drug pushers serve their sentence as per the host country’s laws.

“I really don’t know what the restrictions are for the next administration. For now, since President Aquino is still in power, we extend as much humanitarian help as we possibly can, which includes visiting them weekly in jail,” Cortes said.

The ATN officer said during their weekly visits, they provide legal assistance and all forms of help, including requesting clemency for the inmates and going as far as referring inmates’ request for their children’s scholarship to their partner agencies in the Philippines.