Dubai: Nearly 7,500 Filipinos in the UAE have been granted amnesty since August, more than half of whom, however, have chosen to stay in the country, a diplomat said.
The UAE began its amnesty programme on August 1 to give illegal foreigners the chance to go back to their home countries without having to pay overstay fines, without getting a ban, or to legalise their residency status.
Last week, the amnesty was extended for another month until December 1.
Philippine Consul-General Paul Raymund Cortes on Wednesday said both missions in Abu Dhabi and Dubai have repatriated nearly 3,000 Filipinos since August, while more than 4,300 have chosen to legalise their status by getting a jobseeker’s visa or getting a sponsor.
“Many of the repatriates had lived in the UAE for an average of five to six years. Many of them had children here, with no papers nor history of availing health services. Others sponsored their kids to stay here, but lost their jobs and became unable to renew their visas,” Cortes said.
“They chose to stay in the UAE without legal documentation, content with doing part-time jobs with meagre compensation that’s often not enough to sustain their families here and then end up becoming illegals.”
A total of 200 Filipinos will be repatriated from Dubai on November 11, the biggest batch so far since the amnesty programme began.
The Philippine government shouldered the cost of all the exit fees and lifting of absconding fees of the nearly 3,000 repatriates, including their one-way ticket to Manila and their final destination, plus $100 (Dh367) cash welfare assistance, totalling to roughly Dh7.8 million.
This assistance comes from the one billion pesos (Dh69.6 million) Assistance-To-Nationals Fund for 2018 from the Department of Foreign Affairs for overseas Filipinos worldwide. It is funded using taxpayers’ money.
Cortes said the consulate currently assists an average of 50 amnesty seekers on a daily basis at the consulate, down from 1,000 people a day in the first few weeks of the amnesty period.
He said the consulate gets many inquiries to avail of the amnesty, but many applicants are disqualified due to outstanding bank cases, rental disputes and civil cases. He clarified that the Philippine government cannot help Filipinos in debt cases using taxpayer’s money.
“They have less than three weeks left to work out their documentation and settle their bank cases, to be able to avail of the amnesty. I urge all of our Kababayans (compatriots) to avail of the amnesty before it ends.”