By the time you get your air ticket to Kish you feel something squirming inside your stomach. Talking about flying in a rundown Kish airbus, to staying in a 10- to 14-bedded room, to waiting for your visa to arrive – imagine how one feels in going through such this stressful (and not-under-any-normal-circumstance) process. And how many Filipinos exiting from the UAE everyday are we talking about?
From Dubai alone with three flights a day multiplied at the least of a hundred passengers per flight, we have a roughly 300 “exiters” on a daily basis, majority of them are Filipinos. Because of this big number of visa-less individuals, Kish is a happy tiny island, thriving with small to medium businesses ranging from small grocery stores to Filipino/Indian eateries (some of which are owned and managed by Filipinas married to Iran nationales).
Over the years Kish has been a refuge to UAE job hunters, exploring this part of the Middle East under visit/tourist visas and hoping to land on decent employment. However the plight for those visit visa holders includes the rather unpleasant exit from the country in order to obtain either a new visit visa or ultimately an employment or resident visa.
Kish is the easiest and most uncomplicated way out. It is 45 minutes flight away, located 198km northwest of the UAE and bordered by the Persian Gulf. A province of Iran, Kish maintains its status of free trade zone. The constant flow of exiters arriving to and from the island means profit to the businesses around; but to exiters, Kish can be compared to island prison facilities, holding those who are not supposed to be anywhere else in the world.
A day spent in the island is enough time to collect depressing stories of stranded exiters. The household conversation focuses mainly on visa issues, baffled exiters not being able to get clear answers from their employers, and ultimately personal problems back home in the Philippines. Waking up to such stories is heartbreaking and contagious. A huge part of the day is a constant battle of monotonous waiting and following up, then come sunset – it is time again to rest and hope for the good news on the next day. It is indeed a vicious cycle of hanging onto one’s hat for almost nothing. A good number of them unflaggingly wait for weeks and months, trying to make ends meet with their thinning resources (and patience).
Yet, being the fun-loving Filipinos, there is always refusal to succumb to misery. Where the fun is, our kabayans converge and kill time. Simple entertainments such as bazaars, videoke restaurants, malls, island tours and computer shops can somehow ease the pain and bridge the virtual gap between that small island and the real world.
Now that the UAE Immigration issued a six-month ban policy to passengers entering Iran (Kish, Qshem), Kish is quite unsure of how life would be without a steady flow of exiters, although tourism goes on for tourists from around the world.
As for me, I finally took my flight home one day under gloomy skies. The plane struggled through a rough turbulence once just after the takeoff; and onto the brighter end of our destination I saw a rainbow hanging by the clouds. Majestic sight. I finally let out a smile.