DUBAI: Philippine embassy and consular officials are in talks with the UAE government for a possible waiver of visa penalties against overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who have been affected by the Asian country’s flights ban.
‘Our embassy and consular officials are talking to UAE immigration authorities [for the possibility] to waive visa penalties [that may be imposed] on stranded OFWs,” Hans Leo J. Cacdac, administrator of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), told local media.
OWWA is the Philippines’ main agency focuses on the welfare of overseas Filipino workers and their families. It has repatriated over 610,000 individuals since the national government started flying home Filipino workers affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, including those from the UAE.
In June alone, more than 1,900 stranded and distressed Filipinos in the UAE were repatriated through special flights arranged by the Philippine government.
“We are mounting four chartered flights this July just as we mounted three UAE repatriation flights last June,” Sarah Lou Y. Arriola, Foreign Affairs Undersecretary for Migrant Workers’ Affairs, said in an earlier statement.
Shane, who finished her contract as a nurse in an Abu Dhabi hospital, was one of the 348 repatriates who arrived from Dubai on July 1. She managed to be included in the flight only after constantly following up with embassy officials in Abu Dhabi.
“Please lift the ban [on UAE flights], have mercy… we will be levied overstaying fines here in the UAE. We already want to be home with our families,” the nurse said in one of her posts in one of the Philippine government’s social media accounts.
The Philippines earlier this week extended the ban on commercial flights from the UAE and six other countries – India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Oman – until the middle of July as a precaution against the highly transmissible Delta variant of the coronavirus.
Arrivals from these countries has been temporarily suspended since late April, although current border controls do not affect outbound travelers to the said countries.
“We are in talks with Philippine transportation officials about the possibility of the resumption of commercials flights,” Cacdac said interview, acknowledging the clamor of OFWs who have been stuck in the UAE because of the flight ban.
One of those is Jerome, an engineer working in Dubai, whose flight this week was canceled because of the travel ban extension, thus preventing him from going home to visit his ailing father.
“Our booking agency said the nearest date where there will be an available flight is in September, which is way too late,” Jerome told Arab News.
“Passengers whose flights have been canceled earlier have already taken the seats for this month and August. The Philippines should consider opening flights for OFWs who have been fully vaccinated, if they are worried about the Delta variant of COVID-19,” he said.