Nathaly Dumlao said she was subjected to ``unjust`` travel screening by the Philippine immigration officer.
PHOTO BY NATHALY DUMLAO
A UAE-based Filipina has cried foul for the “trauma” she experienced after an immigration officer in the Philippines allegedly refused to let her travel on holiday due to her “active UAE work visa”.
“The [immigration officer] said, ‘Mam, you have a travel history in 2017 going to Singapore then to UAE, and then you did not return. Why did you work there?” Nathaly Dumlao said in Filipino, describing her ordeal with an immigration officer at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport on March 20.
In a now viral Facebook post, Dumlao accused the immigration officer of trying to “offload” her from her flight without a valid reason. She had booked a Manila-Hong Kong trip on March 20 with her partner when they were denied travel by the immigration officer whom she identified as P.C. (full name withheld).
The Filipina said they had round-trip tickets, paid hotel booking and tourist spot tickets for the trip to celebrate her partner’s birthday and their anniversary, but were still subjected to secondary screening.
Dumlao said she did not think much of it at first because she and her partner have a yearly history of travel abroad. She also has a verified employment contract in the UAE, a business license and a valid Overseas Employment Certificate (OEC).
Dumlao said she couldn’t believe it when the immigration officer finally told her the reason why she couldn’t travel abroad.
“Mam, we can’t allow you to travel because you have an active working UAE visa and your contract and Emirates ID are active,” Dumlao quoted the immigration officer as saying.
The Filipina traveler replied that her documents will naturally be valid because she is still returning to work in the UAE.
“You mean OFWs can’t unwind and travel abroad because of their work visa?” Dumlao asked, to which the immigration officer allegedly replied, “Yes, mam. We cannot consider you as a tourist because you are an OFW.”
The immigration officer also went on the claim, “You need to have your work visa in UAE cancelled before we can allow you to travel or tour abroad.”
Dumlao said she was also asked to have her OEC verified again at the airport, to which she complied, but that when she presented the new document to the same officer, P.C. insisted that they could not travel out of the country that day because she and her partner should both “work in the Philippines, not abroad”.
Dumlao said her partner used to work in the UAE and has relatives here who are able to sponsor him if he really needs to visit the country.
The Filipina said that the officer also questioned the huge sum of money she was carrying on the trip. “Where is that from?” the officer allegedly asked, to which she replied it is from her beauty salon business and her salary in the UAE.
Dumlao said that the officer only allowed her and her partner to travel after she threatened to expose the incident on social media. She also refused to write and sign a declaration, required by the officer, that she will “not return to the UAE”.
Following the incident, Dumlao has called for the immigration officer to be fired and said that OFWs should not be subjected to discrimination from travel.
“It takes years for OFWs to return home and reward themselves with holiday tickets that they worked hard to save, and then it’s going to waste? Justice for OFWs,” Dumlao said in Filipino. There was yet to reaction from the Bureau of Immigration on this issue as of this publication.
Barney Almazar of the UAE-based legal consultancy firm Gulf Law, told Expatmedia.net in a previous report that balance must be established when implementing the screening process for Filipino travelers.
“The right to travel is a constitutional right which a citizen cannot be deprived without due process of law and only on clear and compelling grounds of national security, public health and public safety,” Almazar said.
“What are the criteria used by Philippine immigration officers to determine if a traveler should be offloaded? Of course, if the passport or visa is fake, they can legally stop the traveler. But if the traveler is offloaded simply because he looks poor, most likely to overstay, or will find a job abroad (which is legally allowed in the UAE), these are not constitutional grounds to restrict free movement,” he told Expatmedia.net.
The Filipino lawyer said that personal bias should not have a place in the screening process. “If the traveler is a rich person, that does not mean that he will not look for a job opportunity abroad. So, effectively, the poor is prohibited to leave the country while the rich is not, while both hold the same tourist visa,” he added. ICA/PIA/Expat Media
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