Filipina expat with Dh190,000 debt gets new life in UAE
Abu Dhabi - She is now living happily and freely in the country as she looks for a job.
A 43-year-old Filipina expat, who was stuck in the UAE for almost eight years, being jobless and facing a travel ban over a Dh190,000 bounced cheque conviction, is among the many workers who have been helped by the human rights authorities in Abu Dhabi to start new lives.
Fatma Abdulrahim Obaid, head of the Human Rights Section at the Abu Dhabi Judicial Department (ADJD) told Khaleej Times on the sidelines of the Labour Court Information Forum on Monday that her office had handled and solved 23 cases of workers with various problems during the first six months of 2018. The human rights office had handled 42 cases during 2017.
Most of the cases, according to Fatma, involve workers facing immigration issues such as absconding, work ban from employers and other legal issues.
And among the recent cases they received was that of a Filipina who was apparently staying illegally in the country after her visa had expired for many years. The woman had become jobless after spending time in jail over a bounced cheque and was also facing a travel ban because she couldn't pay Dh190,000 on the dud cheque as she didn't have any source of income.
"The poor woman had spent time moving from office to office, seeking help, but couldn't find hope until she was directed to the human rights section," said Obaid.
"She came to us crying. She had spent almost eight years stuck in the country and without a job. She couldn't move out of the country because she had a travel ban on her as she was unable to pay the amount on the bounced cheque," she said.
She said in just a day after receiving her case, the human rights office helped the woman have her arrest warrant removed temporarily and her name was cleared with the immigration office so that she could get a visa and find a new job enabling her to repay the money.
"We have helped her get the six-month jobseekers temporary residence visa under the ongoing amnesty scheme and she is now living happily and freely in the country as she looks for a job," said Obaid.
She said her office is helping many people with different cases, including getting them lawyers to ensure that their human rights are considered and also to give them hope.
Judicial Department keen on ensuring workers get their rights
Chief Justice Abdullah Faris Ali Al Nuami, head of the Abu Dhabi Labour Court, said that the Abu Dhabi Judicial Department is keen on protecting the rights of workers and it has undertaken many initiatives in this regard. These include organising workshops and field visits to workers' accommodations to teach workers about the labour law and their rights, human trafficking and other related issues so that they can file complaints to authorities in case their rights are violated.
"The department introduced a mobile court to handle cases involving disputes between workers living in one area and their employers and last year, a One-day Labour Court was established in Abu Dhabi to cut waiting time and ensure quick verdicts in cases that do not exceed Dh20,000. The court has so far handled 700 cases," he said.
He noted that the judicial department also launched on its website a system that can help or show workers how to calculate their end of service gratuity. It has also established a legal aid office to help workers facing problems or have disputes with their employers.
Benjimin Burger, legal consultant at the ADJD, said the department will soon introduce a Happiness Card - a charitable support card for vulnerable workers, to assist them in the travel and substance expenses, while the labour case is ongoing and is being considered.
"We have also arranged with the Emirates Red Crescent to provide financial assistance to individuals in need," he said.
According to official figures, the number of complaints and labour cases handled by the Abu Dhabi Public Prosecution has dropped from 16,897 cases in 2017 to 9,979 cases in 2018.
Most of the complaints involve workers for non-payment of wages by their employers.