The Philippine embassy in Dubai should coordinate with local authorities and work for the speedy release of OFW inmates and their children on humanitarian grounds.
By INA ALLECO R. SILVERIO
MANILA — Babies are being kept in prison with their mothers in jails in Middle East, and the Philippine Embassy in Dubai should immediately go to their aid.
This was the call issued by Migrante’s chapter in the Middle East, saying that there are more or less 15 women overseas Filipino workers with their children in jail in the Muraqabat prison for women in Dubai.
Migrante-Middle East regional director John Monterona said he received information from a recently released female OFW inmate who requested anonymity that there are about 100 OFW inmates in the said jail and 15 of them have their children incarcerated with them.
“The information we just received is quite disturbing. The innocent children have been exposed to the adversities and bitter realities of prison life,” said Monterona.
Monterona’s report has been corroborated by reporter Nichola Jones of the online newsmagazine 7Days. Jones followed the lead Migrante Middle East provided and visited the Muraqabat prison. Monterona said that the 7Days reporter told him through an email that she saw little children in the jail’s courtyard.
“I assumed it was ‘family visiting day’ but when I asked the guard, she told me they live there. They don’t ever get to go out of the prison compound and receive no education,” Jones said.
In her report, Jones also said, a prison official of the Dubai Central Jail in Al Awira said that there were also another 38 young children jailed with their mothers in the prison’s women’s section.
No figures were available for police station holding cells in Port Rashid, Al Rashidiya, Al Raffa and Bur Dubai.
A report by Gulf News in May revealed that in the Al Aweer Women’s Jail, women detainees are allowed to take custody of their children under two years of age while they are serving their jail sentences. A jail official, Major General Khamis Mattar Al Mazeina, deputy chief of Dubai Police, said the Dubai Police is the first security body to allow women detainees to babysit and breastfeed without time limits.
Monterona said the children should not be in jail in the first place even though their individual mother is in prison.
He said that Migrante staff in Dubai were given legal advice which suggests children can only be kept with their mothers in jail until they finish breast feeding – a policy the central jail official said is being implemented in the female block.
“No matter what, 38 children in jail is 38 too many. Some of the women OFWs were charged of illicit affairs. Unfortunately, they became pregnant and while serving their time in jai delivered their babies,” Monterona said.
Monterona said some OFWs who were jailed claimed they were sexually abused and got pregnant. “They tried to escape their employers/abusers, but their were charged with absconding and other made-up crimes like stealing or engaging in illicit affairs,” they said.
Unmarried pregnant women breaking the law
According to human rights website on laws in Dubai, unmarried women are guilty of violating the law if and when they become pregnant. A girlfriend/boyfriend defacto relationship in Dubai is illegal.
Through the years, there have been many documented cases of unmarried mothers in Dubai ending up in jail with their babies after delivery.
After release from jail upon the completion of their sentence, they are deported.
It has been been said that government hospitals in Dubai report to the police pregnant women who seek maternity care but are unable to show marriage certificates.
“Immorality charges” are the same as those lodged against women if and when they are caught in the company of adult male individual/s who are not her husband or relative.
Philippine officials in Dubai should help
Monterona expressed dismay at how Philippine officials in Dubai have done very little to help the jailed OFWs and their children.
In the same 7Days report, Philippines labour attache Amilbahar Amilasan was reported to have said that the embassy does as much as it can to support mothers and children.
Amilasan in the report said “Repatriation is difficult because these children are not usually registered and so have no documentation.”
“Sometimes it is better for the baby to be with its mother, even if
that is in jail,” Amilasan said.
Monterona said the Philippine embassy in Dubai should coordinate
with local authorities and work for the speedy release of OFW inmates and their children on humanitarian grounds.
“Can’t our officials ask for clemency to shorten the jail terms of our kababayans?” Monterona asked.
Monterona added that the embassy could even arrange to talk with the OFW inmates and convince them to coordinate with their families in the Philippines so that the children could be sent home, after getting them the required documentation, and place the children under temporary care of their relatives in the Philippines.
In the meantime, Monterona said Migrante officers in Dubai have begun efforts to dialogue and coordinate with Philippine officials in Dubai to provide assistance to the OFW inmates and their children.