Fifty-eight Colombian soldiers on Monday flew to Dubai to join the army of the Arab country, despite an announcement made by the Colombian army in April that an end to the exodus to the United Arab Emirates had been agreed.
The soldiers, who were filmed boarding a flight to Dubai by Colombian television station Noticias Uno on Monday morning, firmly denied reports of any agreement preventing them from joining the Arab country’s army.
“What the generals are saying are lies, pure and simple, because I already have my Visa, my tickets, and I’m ready to leave now” said one of the 58 soldiers, who reportedly include former Special Forces members, Commanders and retired members from prominent units of Colombia’s military intelligence.
The soldiers also confirmed the fresh reports that an embassy from the Colombian government, including the Vice-minister of Defense and Foreign Affairs, Jorge Bedoya, also travelled to the UAE on Monday to try and negotiate an end to the migration of Colombian soldiers to the country, though reports are yet to emerge confirming the results of this most recent meeting.
According to the Financial Times, the UAE has already added 1,400 mercenaries (from foreign countries) in a bid to increase its army forces by as many as 3,000 new recruits.
National Colombian weekly Semana reported that in 2012 at least 842 Colombian soldiers and retired soldiers joined the UAE army, which is paying salaries up to ten times what the Colombian state pays the members of its armed forces.
The transfer of soldiers to the foreign army has caused unease among Colombia’s military commanders for years because the military claims the higher salaries abroad are draining the army of its best men and women.
“They have recruited soldiers with a lot of combat experience, valuable men with years of service in which the Army invested a lot in terms of training,” an anonymous general told Semana in 2012.
“Without a doubt, this is a loss for the army, but there isn’t much we can do because it is by no means illegal,” the military official added.
According to Semana, the Colombians are making in between $2,800 and $18,000 in the UAE depending on the rank. In Colombia, a soldier earns $530 a month on average.