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From left: Eisa Khalifeh, Sheila Mupas, consular assistant Jennifer Pimentel, Marianne Bringas and consul-general Paul Raymond Cortez at press conference in Dubai. Image Credit: Clint Egbert/Gulf News

Dubai: Don’t take the bait of illegal recruiters by accepting jobs abroad posted on fake sites and social media, Filipinos were told on Tuesday.

The Philippine Consulate-General through its Assistance-To-Nationals (ATN) Section handled a total of 2,085 undocumented Filipinos in 2018, almost double the 2017 figures of 1,137.

The Philippine government classifies undocumented workers as those who leave the country with tourist visas but with the objective of finding jobs abroad.

Of the more than 2,000 ATN cases, some 1,200 had been repatriated while the rest were endorsed to the Philippine embassy and immigration for repatriation.

Free legal consultation by appointment is available at the consulate every Wednesday from 1pm to 5pm.

“Some 99 per cent of them were undocumented and entered the UAE on visit visas. Many of them had been promised jobs to work in the UAE as tutors, caregivers and others but ended up working as domestic workers and cleaners in cleaning companies,” Sheila Mupas, ATN officer, said in a press conference.

“Many of them were contacted by illegal recruiters on social media and only met the latter at the airport before leaving the country. Once in the UAE, many of them reported to have experienced maltreatment, verbal and physical abuse, which is why they sought help from us.”

The Philippine government has repeatedly advised Filipinos to go through proper channels when seeking jobs abroad. This means they have to go through agencies vetted by the Philippine Overseas Employment Agency in Manila.

“We urge our compatriots to be wary of job offers on social media as many of these are fake jobs and are posted by illegal recruiters,” Mupas said.

The consulate disbursed around $2.6 million (Dh9.5 million) from its ATN Fund in 2018 to help 24,000 distressed Filipinos.

This includes, among others, the cost of repatriation of 4,033 Filipinos in 2018, including 1,717 ATN cases who applied for the amnesty programme of the UAE, according to Vice-Consul Marianne Bringas, head of the ATN Section at the Philippine consulate.

The ATN Section also handled 26 medical repatriations and 25 shipments of remains for that year.

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Eisa Khalifeh, Legal Retainer of the Philippine Consulate from Sara Advocates and Legal Consultants, at the Philippine Consulate General in Dubai. Image Credit: Clint Egbert/Gulf News

For the Legal Assistance Fund, the consulate assisted 150 beneficiaries and spent around $500,000 on legal fees in 2018.

Eisa Khalifeh, the legal retainer of the consulate that works together with the ATN Section, said they gave legal consultations to 600 Filipinos throughout 2018.

Their legal office is currently handling 200 cases that have reached the courts in Dubai and the Northern Emirates. The cases include labour disputes such as non-payment of salaries, unjust termination, immigration cases, rape, murder and breach of trust, among others.

“We have two Emirati lawyers and the whole team to handle the legal cases referred to us by the Philippine consulate. We urge Filipinos to immediately seek help if they need it. Your consulate is very helpful and supportive so please don’t hesitate to ask help since your welfare is our main concern,” said Khalifeh from Sara Advocates and Legal Consultants.

Free legal consultation can be sought at the consulate by appointment every Wednesday from 1-5pm.

Message the consulate WhatsApp on 056-4177558, or call for assistance to nationals on 056-5015755, 056-5015756 or by emailing atn@pcgdubai.ae