Anger over affidavits for visiting Filipinos

Filipino groups in the UAE have renewed calls for scrapping a document that they say friends and relatives need to present to immigration officials in Manila to be allowed to travel to the UAE.

DUBAI //Filipino groups in the UAE have renewed calls for scrapping a document that they say friends and relatives need to present to immigration officials in Manila to be allowed to travel to the UAE, yet does not guarantee that they will be allowed to depart.

However, Philippine immigration officials and the consul general in Dubai have said the "affidavit of support and guarantee" from their sponsor is not among the documents required for citizens visiting the UAE.

Since August last year, airport immigration officials in Manila have barred passengers on tourist visas who they suspect are victims of trafficking or illegal recruitment.

Passengers on tourist visas, including those who had earlier been intercepted at the airport, have since resorted to presenting the affidavits as proof that their trip was financed.

According to a statement released this week by Kalahi International and five other UAE-based organisations, Filipinos spend time and money to secure the affidavit from the Philippine consulate in Dubai, but the document turns out to be "useless" in the Philippines.

"It isn't right," said Aquino Atacador, 45, an engineer in Dubai who is also the secretary general of Kalahi International, a political organisation. "Why can't Filipinos leave the country even after showing an affidavit of support and guarantee?"

The Bureau of Immigration has been preventing Filipinos from boarding flights to Dubai while the consulate continues to collect processing fees for the affidavit, the letter said.

"The immigration officer does not explain to the passenger why he or she can't leave," Mr Atacador said.

"The affidavit of support appears to be mandatory in Dubai and not elsewhere," he said. "It's not needed in Malaysia, but just last month, there were reports of a prostitution syndicate that victimised Filipinas."

He said the group had learnt of extortion cases as well, with passengers paying 25,000 to 30,000 pesos (Dh2,155 to Dh2,586) so they could depart through an "escort" system. The passenger is directed to a specific immigration queue, then escorted to the departure gate.

Mr Atacador said the bureau was violating the Filipinos' constitutional right to travel and called on the government to change the system.

Antonette Bucasas, the former airport operations division chief of the immigration bureau in Manila, had said in January that the document was not required, and discouraged Filipinos on tourist visas from presenting an affidavit of support to be cleared for departure, arguing that it raised questions about one's capacity to go on holiday.

"An affidavit of support already casts a doubt on the passenger, since he or she can't undertake the travel itself and is at risk," said Ms Bucasas, who now serves as the bureau's intelligence chief.

"It may be one of the documents that can be presented, but it doesn't guarantee that he or she will be allowed to depart."

Benito Valeriano, the Philippine consul general in Dubai, said the groups' statement on the affidavit of support was "outrageous" and "not well researched".

The groups have to address their concerns to the Bureau of Immigration or the Department of Justice in Manila, he said.

Mr Valeriano said people continued to ask for the affidavit of support and the consulate was duty-bound to notarise the document. "I've asked Manila to give me the authority to stop it but they said I can't," he said. "It's a declaration of a person and we need to sign it."

rruiz@thenational.ae

Published: August 26, 2011 04:00 AM

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