Sunday, March 19, 2006

Filipinos warned about working in Dubai on ‘visit visas’

First posted 09:45am (Mla time)
Mar 19, 2006
By Jerome AningInquirer

Editor's Note: Published on page A8 of the March 19, 2006 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer

DUBAI, the most progressive city in the Middle East, has been hosting an increasing number of Filipino “tourist workers,” many of whom often find themselves without jobs, or working under miserable conditions and reduced to begging, according to a top Filipino job recruiter.

The recruiter, who visited Dubai in the United Arab Emirates last week to check on the workers that his own agency had deployed to the emirate, said Filipinos who entered Dubai using “visit visas” widely advertised by travel agencies in Manila were having a difficult time finding good jobs.

To survive, many accept work for low salaries and under unfair labor conditions, said the recruiter who asked not to be named.

His findings were confirmed by Emmanuel Geslani, a consultant to several Manila-based recruitment agencies.

Geslani said the recruiter had written about the problem months ago to the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration but nothing came of it.

Considered undocumented because they did not go through the hiring process of the POEA, these workers-disguised-as-tourists are allowed to stay in Dubai for only 57 days.

Documented workers like secretaries receive 3,000 UAE dirhams (about P42,000) with free accommodations while workers with only “visit visas” are given only about 1,500 dirhams, or P21,000 pesos, without accommodations.

Those unable to find jobs within the 57-day period have to leave Dubai and fly to the tourist island of Kis in Iran to renew their visit visas or wait for a worker visa to be issued by their employer, the recruiter said.
He said many of the OFWs waiting it out in Kis had spent almost all their cash. Some had even resorted to begging from new Filipino arrivals for bed and board.

The plight of stranded OFWs in Kis was investigated by the Department of Foreign Affairs a few years ago. But the DFA has yet to make public the report of the team it sent to Iran and UAE to check on the matter.
Deployment to the UAE has been rising dramatically for the past seven years, from a low of 35,485 in 1998 to 49,164 in 2003, 68,386 in 2004 and 81,707 in 2005, because of a boom in the construction of hotels, office buildings and residences.

About 100 new hotels are expected to be constructed in Dubai by 2010, according to the source. But though this would be a boon to OFW recruitment, he said the POEA should start cracking down on those travel agencies selling “visit visas” at prices ranging from P40,000 to P100,00.

“Thousands of Filipinos have been lured by these travel agencies with their ads and many more are convinced by their friends now working there to fly to Dubai and take their chances in finding jobs,” the recruiter said.
Geslani said there were two to three local travel agencies responsible for sending out these “tourist workers.”

He earlier accused Bureau of Immigration agents based in the country’s airports of colluding with these travel agencies in allowing the tourist workers to leave.

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