Video: 101 overstaying Filipino expats fly home from Dubai
They were part of the 277 Filipino expats who were given exit passes in the first week of the amnesty programme.
They all heaved a sigh of relief. Some of them will no longer play hide-and-seek with authorities; mothers and fathers will be reunited with their children; husbands and wives will once again feel the warm embrace of their spouses; and the young ones will be able to continue with their studies. A sad chapter in their lives has ended and a new and promising one will begin - all these happened after they availed of the UAE's amnesty program.
A total of 101 overstaying Filipinos, including six minors, flew out of Dubai on Wednesday. They were part of the 277 Filipino expats who were given an exit pass in the first week of the 90-day immigration amnesty programme.
One of them was Joy, 48, an undocumented Filipina expat who lived in Dubai for five years without residence visa. Speaking to Khaleej Times, she said: "I came here (Dubai) in 2012. I was not able to find a suitable job but instead of returning home, I took a risk and worked part-time cleaning homes and babysitting kids to sustain myself and send some money to my family in the Philippines. I had no legal documents and I was aware that what I was doing was illegal."
"I lived in fear all those years, hiding from authorities. One time, I was almost caught during a random inspection. The policeman told me 'Ta'al, ta'al' (come, come!) but I pretended that I did not hear him and immediately ran away," Joy shared.
"My heart was really beating fast. What if I got caught? Then I would have been deported?," she added.
The amnesty program came as an early birthday and Christmas gift to Joy. She went to the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs (GDRFA) office in Al Aweer on August 1 to avail of the UAE's general amnesty program. The same day she got her exit pass. And much to her delight, the Philippine Consulate in Dubai paid for her outpass worth Dh221 and another Dh521 to remove her absconding case. Plus she was given a free ticket back home, courtesy of the Philippine government.
Another heartwarming story is that of teenagers Erica and Aldwin who will now be able to continue their studies back home. Erica, who finished high school at a Philippine school in Dubai, has overstayed for three years after her mother's employer left the country in 2015.
"My mother who worked for 13 years as a chocolate designer at a local confectionery in Al Quoz was left high and dry. Not only she did not get her gratuity, which amounted to more than Dh60,000, her employment visa was also not cancelled and we both had expired visas," Erica shared.
"Thankfully I was able to finish my high school studies and because of the amnesty program I will be able to go home without paying any fines to pursue my dream of studying Tourism in college," she added.
The same happy development happened to Aldwin. A varsity basketball player, he thought he will not be able to continue his studies after his residence visa expired in 2016. "My father lost his business and worse his partner ran away with his passport. So I was not able to renew my visa. But we are going home now and hopefully I can find a school that will include me in their collegiate basketball team," he said.
Two more happy passengers of Philippine Airlines (PAL) flight PR 659, which took off from DXB Terminal 1 on Wednesday night, were Joseph and Dondon who both overstayed in Dubai for three years.
"The first thing that we are going to do is to kiss and hug our respective wives," the cheerful duo told Khaleej Times.
"We came to Dubai on visit visa to search for jobs but we were unlucky so we just worked part time illegally. It was a life full of uncertainties but a sacrifice that we had to do to make both ends meet," they said.
"Good thing about the UAE's government amnesty program is that we can both come back here with no travel ban. We will just go home to see our families and after some time, God willing, we will come back to Dubai to find work. But next time we will go through the proper channels, meaning we will process our papers through the POEA (Philippine Overseas Employment Administration)," they added.
More stories of joy and hope were written in the faces of the other returning Filipinos. Philippine Consul-General Paul Raymund Cortes said: "I wish them luck as they warmly reunite with their respective families whom they haven't seen for a long time. This (amnesty program) has closed a sad chapter in their lives and I fervently hope they will write a new and happy chapter of their lives back home. I also hope they were able to experience the sincere intervention of both the UAE and Philippine governments to make their lives better."
Agnes Pagaduan, PAL country manager-UAE, added: "We are happy to be part of sending our kababayans (compatriots) back home. We wish them all the best and we hope that they will be able to have a better future ahead."
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