Top 5 problems OFWs face in the UAE

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – Non-payment of debt is the leading cause of Overseas Filipino Workers’ (OFWs) woes in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), top Philippine officials told The Filipino Times in an exclusive interview. 

This is followed by relationship outside marriage, possession and use of drugs, intoxication from alcohol, and illegal recruitment.

According to Consul General Frank Cimafranca, a growing number of Filipinos in the UAE have been getting into trouble due to mounting credit card debt and bad loans.
Cimafranca related a number of special cases where Filipinos sought financial assistance from the Philippine Consulate in Dubai and Northern Emirates after they ended up on the wrong side of debt – and law.

The consulate had to step in to enable heavily indebted Filipinos to return to the Philippines after serving their prison terms.

Thousands of Filipino expats working in the UAE consider sending money back home a source of fulfillment and a sense of responsibility. However some take it to the extremes by answering all the financial and medical needs of their ‘poor’ relatives and saying no is never an option.

This downfall is also triggered by spending and living a lifestyle they cannot afford. Some Filipinos go on for spending binge taking on more credit cards and loans than they can service.

More than 90% of deportation cases are financial in nature in the UAE, wherein debtors couldn’t recover their loans, and some of such cases involve Filipinos.

The Ambassador of the Philippines to the UAE Grace Relucio Princesa said:  “There are four letter I’s that can get Overseas Filipinos in trouble in the UAE – immorality cases or illegal liaisons that are costs of social migration, intoxication from drugs and alcohol, indebtedness and illegal recruitment.

“Overseas Filipinos are unfortunately not making the best use of the financial opportunities available in the UAE.

The need of the moment is to maximize the benefits of living here, minimize the cost of migration and balance the pains and the gains. “Some studies show that 70% of overseas Filipinos have not been able to save despite having been out for the last 40 years of the 5th wave of Philippine migration since the 16th century i.e. Filipino mariners in the Galleon Trade. To address this, we have launched the Pinoy WISE movement or Worldwide Initiative for Pinoy Investments, Savings, Entrepreneurship, Education and Investment.” Relationship outside marriage, extramarital affairs and undocumented children are another set of issues faced by Filipinos in the UAE.

While a good number of cases are being dealt with the embassy and the consulate on a daily basis, it is difficult to pin down the actual number, officials said.

“We are doing everything possible to help those people fly back to the Philippines after serving their sentence.

But those caught in the UAE for relationship outside marriage or any such immorality. Non-payment of debt is a result of some extreme sense of responsibility by answering all the financial and medical needs of their ‘poor’ relatives.

This downfall is also triggered by spending and living a lifestyle they cannot afford issues, will have to face the jail term,” Cimafranca said.

There also have been a number of drug arrests involving Filipinos in the UAE. Following the arrests, an advisory has been issued by the Philippine offcials in the UAE for its nationals warning them against the use and possession of drugs.

Reports suggest that earlier this month, a Filipina nurse was arrested for possessing methamphetamine, a mind-altering substance, in her underwear.

In another case, five years of imprisonment had been handed over to a Filipina waitress and student for supplying methamphetamine and amphetamine to friends during a birthday party in October 2013.

The Philippine Embassy in the UAE has also been active in ending the problem of contract substitution.

Contract substitution happens when a second, inferior, labor contract to the signed original is presented to a worker, either before leaving their home country or after arriving in the UAE. –

This story was republished with permission from The Filipino Times of the United Arab Emirates.