By Roy Mabasa
Some 30,000 undocumented Filipinos have been urged to take advantage of the three-month amnesty program being implemented by the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) may the call as it conveyed its gratitude to the UAE for allowing the undocumented Filipinos the opportunity to either correct their immigration status or return to the Philippines.
The amnesty began August 1 and will end on October 31, 2018.
It was learned that there are about 10,000 Filipinos under the jurisdiction of the Philippine Embassy in Abu Dhabi and 20,000 under the Consulate General in Dubai are deemed eligible under the amnesty program.
Philippine Consul General to Dubai Paul Raymond Cortez said the UAE is implementing the amnesty for all foreign nationals who violated the country’s immigration rules, adding that those who will avail themselves of the program will be exempted from the usual fines and immigration penalties and will not be banned from re-entering that Gulf state country.
Cortez said the amnesty covers those who have overstayed or have absconded from their employers.
“Those who have police records and cases filed against them will have to resolve their cases first before availing themselves of the program,” he said.
The amnesty program is offering two options for undocumented foreign nationals, either to exit the country without penalty or apply for a six-month visa at the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation to enable them to seek new employment.
Those who will be able to secure a six-month visa will reportedly be given priority when it comes to vacancies.
According to Chargé d’Affaires Rowena Pangilinan-Daquipil of the Philippine Embassy in Abu Dhabi, those who will opt to legalize their status must carry a valid Philippine passport and pay a fee prescribed by the UAE depending on the type of case.
She said Filipinos without a valid passport will be allowed to renew or replace their passport, subject to the usual requirements for passport applications.
Pangilinan-Daquipil added that those who will exit to the Philippines and do not have any passports would be issued a one-way travel document to enable them to come home.
As early as last Monday, the UAE authorities have set up a center with two large tents in an area in Dubai where those seeking to regularize their residency status can go for help during the amnesty period.
According to reports emanating from the UAE, the said center can handle 3,000 people from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. each day, with 40 counters to be manned by multi-lingual officers available to provide assistance. The center will operate until October 31, the last day of the amnesty.
Furthermore, several foreign embassies will also set up counters to facilitate their nationals to leave the UAE.
The three-month amnesty program is a “gift” from the UAE government and a great humanitarian gesture for the people who are overstaying in the country, Major-General Mohammed Ahmad Al Merri of the UAE’s General Directorate of Residency Foreigners said in a statement.