Dubai. Photo: iStock

A Filipino woman has been living in Dubai for the past eight years without a passport or visa.

The Filipina named Michelle, 46, arrived in Dubai in 1995 and at first worked at an American fast food company. After six years, she moved to  a secretarial post at an advertising firm, Khaleej Times reported.

In 2006, Michelle opened a travel agency that sponsored and facilitated visas and tickets for tourists. She said her business did well until 2008, when her misfortunes began.

Many of Michelle’s clients absconded, leaving her with heavy immigration penalties. “At least 20 clients ran away, which meant a loss of 170,000 dirhams in 2008 alone,” Michelle said.

In 2009, the agency went bankrupt, by which time Michelle had also accrued debts of over 300,000 dirhams to several banks. She then used her passport as collateral for a loan from “an Indian man”.

Michelle was able to pay off her loan, but the man left Dubai before she was able to retrieve her passport. Since 2010, Michelle has had neither a passport nor a visa – and no stable means of making a livelihood.

Things only went from bad to worse. She took out another loan from a compatriot using her daughter’s passport as collateral. However, this lender also left the country, meaning that Michelle also lost her daughter’s passport.

Attempts to obtain new passports at the Philippine Consulate failed when she learned that she had to provide police reports for the lost passports. However, pending disputes with Dubai banks meant she was unable to go to the police. 

Michelle has been able to provide for her family with the help of her sisters and with money she earns from doing small jobs. Now her hopes are pinned on an upcoming amnesty program that might allow her family to become legal residents in Dubai.

“If given the chance, we really want to stay in the UAE. We hope that the authorities will allow us (to do so) through the amnesty program,” she said.

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