OFWs in UAE lament extended travel ban to Philippines

Overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) looking to come home were dismayed upon learning the Philippines extended its ban on travelers coming from the UAE on Monday, May 31.

The national government extended the ban on travelers from the UAE and six other countries in a bid to stem transmission of the coronavirus. The travel ban has been effect since May 15, and will end on June 15.

“I was supposed to travel back to Philippines last May 21, but due to the ban imposed by our government, not just me but many kabayans here are stuck, making it hard for us to make ends meet,” said Monina*, a nurse who recently finished her contract in the UAE.

In a Facebook group called “Pinoy UAE usapang Flight and Visa,” Filipino users posted about and discussed the May 31 decision. Many complained about the hassle of expired visas and tickets that had already been booked for a flight home.

'Just want to be with family'

Monina will only be able to legally stay in the UAE until June 15. She has been unemployed for a month and has taken from her savings for food and room rental – all while sending money to her family in the Philippines as well.

“If I will compare the Philippines to UAE, I feel more safe here in the UAE [from COVID-19]. But I really wanted to be with my family now. It’s causing so much stress for us, especially on our mental health. And it is very expensive to live here compared to the Philippines,” Monina said in an email to Rappler.

Monina said she hoped the government would consider allowing at least Filipinos to come home, even if it meant imposing stricter quarantine procedures.

“Many kabayans here in UAE are pleading, crying, and we all really don’t know where to get the support and help that we need – because even our own country is closing its doors [to] us,” she said.

Monina said she has been emailing and messaging the Philippine consulate for repatriation assistance. In their responses, the consulate asked Monina to fill in forms for waiving of overstay fees and appointment booking for repatriation. She has yet to receive a substantial response.

Rappler reached out to the Philippine consulate in Dubai for comment about the OFWs’ concerns. They have yet to issue an official response. We will update this story once we hear from them.

In India, travelers have been banned from coming to the Philippines since April 29. After the ban was imposed, Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin had said in a tweet that the government "can’t repatriate [Filipinos in India] but we can’t leave them unprotected." – Rappler.com

*Name has been changed for privacy reasons.

Michelle Abad

Michelle Abad is a researcher-writer at Rappler. Possessing the heart and soul of a feminist, she is working on specializing in women's issues in Newsbreak, Rappler's investigative arm.