Filipino migrant rights group to meet with ambassador in UAE

A Filipino migrant rights group has agreed to meet the Philippine ambassador to discuss the 'affidavits for sale' situation.

Affidavits of support which sell for about Dh300. Many Filipinos believe the documents are useless and should be scrapped. Duncan Chard for The National
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ABU DHABI // A migrant rights group is to meet the Philippine ambassador to discuss the controversial "affidavits of support" required by Filipinos travelling to the UAE, and allegations that embassy staff have been selling them.

The documents must be notarised by the Philippine embassy or consulate in the UAE, and presented at immigration in Manila to prove someone else is financing the trip.

Migrante Middle East’s UAE co-ordinator, Nhel Morona, said the claims that embassy staff had been selling the documents required immediate investigation by the ambassador, Grace Princesa.

Migrante officials will meet Ms Princesa on Friday to show her copies of affidavits of support they had gathered.

“She wants to check the veracity of the documents,” Mr Morona said.

“If they’re genuine and were issued by the embassy, we’d like to know from the ambassador what action she’ll take against her own staff.”

He said cases studied by Migrante showed the “useless” affidavit should be scrapped.

In one, a Filipino was barred from flying out of Manila by immigration officials who said he did not have the required papers.

The 37-year-old presented his UAE tourist visa, a copy of an affidavit of support notarised by the Philippine embassy in Abu Dhabi and a passport copy from his brother and sponsor.

But the officer demanded a copy of his brother's Overseas Workers Welfare Administration membership form to prove he was registered with the government agency.

“I asked the immigration officer why they were asking for an Owwa form when I already had an affidavit of support,” he said. “She said it wasn’t important.”

The Owwa fee, which is Dh92, is paid by overseas Filipino workers.

He was allowed to depart on his second attempt, three days later.

“This clearly indicates that the affidavit of support is useless and should be scrapped,” said Mr Morona.

Notarised documents, Migrante representatives say, are readily available from at least 10 travel agencies in Dubai for Dh300.

Ms Princesa said that she wanted to see the documents so she could discuss the issue with the travel agencies.

“When we exposed the anomalous transactions to the media last month, many travel agencies stopped issuing these affidavits for at least 10 days,” Mr Morona said. “Now they’re back in business.”

Karen Tanedo, the group’s chairman, said some agencies had increased their rates from Dh300 to Dh350.

“We need to get to the bottom of this,” Ms Tanedo said.

Most members of Bayanihan UAE, which represents 55 Filipino groups in Abu Dhabi and Al Ain, do not believe the embassy was involved in any of the transactions.

“It’s alarming,” said Ernesto Refugio, Bayanihan president.

“People are making a lot of money but we haven’t received reports linking embassy staff to this anomaly.”