UAE amnesty: Only savings after 27 years, a small bag of chocolates

Filipino expat Francisco Pacheco.- Supplied photo
Filipino expat Francisco Pacheco.- Supplied photo

Dubai - He will travel back home to the Philippines to be with his family he hasn't seen for eight years.

By Angel Tesorero

Published: Tue 7 Aug 2018, 12:00 AM

Last updated: Thu 9 Aug 2018, 4:58 PM

Filipino expat Francisco Pacheco, 58, has just finished packing his clothes and other belongings in a luggage weighing 32kg. Beside it was a small bag filled with dates and chocolates. He then marked the calendar on his wall and encircled August 11 - this is the day when he will travel back home to the Philippines to be with his family he hasn't seen for eight years.
"The first thing that I will do as soon as I get home is to carry and kiss my newly-born apo (grandchild)," Pacheco told Khaleej Times with great anticipation. "I haven't seen my family for eight years. The last time I was home I only had two grand kids and now I have five - with the youngest one born just last month."
Pacheco was one of thousands of overstaying Dubai residents who went last week to the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs (GDRFA) office in Al Aweer on Day 1 of the 90-day 'Protect Yourself By Modifying Your Status' amnesty programme.
He paid the GDRFA Dh221 for the outpass and another Dh521 to clear his name from the immigration list so that he can travel without immigration ban.
The entire Dh742 penalty was refunded to him by the Philippine Consulate but he was not able to avail of the free ticket because he already booked his own. He will fly out of Dubai on Saturday at 11.10pm.
"I will only carry a luggage and a small bag with me. I was not able to save anything. Life was really tough in the past years I lived and worked illegally in Dubai. Pay was very low and there was no job security. Worse, even when I was really very sick I could not go to any hospital or clinic because I had no medical insurance," he said.
Pacheco has been a Dubai resident for 27 years. He came legally in 1991 on an employment visa and worked as a fabricator at an aluminum company in Jebel Ali. His trouble began when the company closed down in 2010.
Instead of going back to Philippines, he went on a visa run at Kish island in Iran and returned to Dubai on a visit visa to search for jobs. No one hired him because he was already 50 years, employers told him. But since he was still supporting his children, he had no choice but to stay in Dubai.
"Actually, it would have been harder for me to look for a job in my hometown in Nueva Ecija (in central Philippines) or even if I worked in Manila (the country's capital)," Pacheco added.
"I worked part time for another aluminum company in Al Quoz and I accepted the offer of receiving only Dh100/ day or Dh2,600 monthly. At least I was able to earn something and support my family. If I returned home I would have earned only about Dh36 (minimum wage in the Philippines) daily. So I stayed back.
"I was not able to change my visa status because the money I was earning was the same amount (Dh100) I had to pay daily for overstaying my visit visa. So, I decided to stay, although illegally," he added.
Despite his meager source of income in Dubai, Pacheco is proud that he was able to support his family financially. Now that all his three children have a family of their own, Pacheco said he look forward to living in the Philippines.
Pacheco added: "I was able to survive and I'm very grateful to the UAE government. They waived my overstaying fines, which amounted to tens of thousands of dirhams. Because of the amnesty programme, finally, I can be with my family again."

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