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Friday, January 23, 2009

Help Desk in Oman to assist stranded OFWs, other Filipinos

The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) today said a Filipino Help Desk shall be set up at the Al-Buraimi border in the Sultanate of Oman to assist overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and other Filipinos taking refuge in that country while waiting for their new reentry visas to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) or repatriation to the Philippines.

Labor and Employment Secretary Marianito D. Roque said a team shall profile the skills and abilities of the stranded OFWs to facilitate their search for employment whether in the UAE or any other country in coordination with the Philippine Overseas Labor Offices (POLOs) in Oman, Dubai, and Abu Dhabi.

Al-Buraimi is an oasis town in northeastern Oman on the UAE border. Prior to the new UAE immigration laws, Filipinos with expired UAE visas exit to this part of Oman while waiting for new re-entry UAE visas which they can acquire within three to five days only.

Roque, citing a report from Muscat-based Labor Attache Romeo Young, said that problems affecting the Filipinos staying at Al-Buraimi began to crop up when UAE changed its laws regarding the acquisition of reentry visas in July 2008.

He said the issuance of new reentry visas in UAE now takes from the usual 3-5 days to 30 days or one month. In case the visa is not released within the 30-day period, the applicant can wait for a maximum period of another 30 days upon payment of 100 dirhams.

The DOLE Chief said that due to the long waiting period, the number of Filipinos staying at Al-Buraimi increased each day and even reached thousands at one point in the third quarter of 2008.

He noted, however, that the turnover of Filipinos staying in several hotels at Al-Buraimi has been constant and fast as soon as they get hold of their reentry visas to UAE. There were also Filipinos who chose to be repatriated to the Philippines.

As of Jan. 11, 2009, Roque said only 782 Filipinos were staying at Buraimi, Bagwan, Jawhara, and Al Saleem Hotels in the Al-Buraimi border. An Omani hotel manager had good words for their Filipino guests saying “they are good and clean.”

Roque said the Help Desk shall provide them the necessary assistance to help them in their concerns including their search for appropriate employment in the UAE or in any country where their skills are needed.

He said Help Desk is expected to pave the way for more expeditious turnover of OFWs and other Filipinos staying temporarily at Al-Buraimi while waiting for their fresh UAE visas.

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