Recruiters hit offloading of OFWs at airports
MANILA, Philippines—The frequent offloading at the country’s airports of overseas Filipino workers suspected of being undocumented recruits or trafficking victims is turning off foreign employers to the point that they have stopped hiring Filipinos and have turned to other countries for their labor needs, according to a recruitment consultant.
Outbound legitimate OFWs have complained about being unable to leave after being offloaded on mere suspicion that they were illegal by “unscrupulous” immigration agents at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport and the country’s other international airports, said Emmanuel Geslani.
He said the latest incident involved a domestic helper working at the household of the Sultan of Johore in Malaysia. The sultan, who visited Manila last April, is a friend of President Aquino and his family.
“Despite the overseas employment certificate issued by the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration main office, the household service worker was offloaded and not allowed to board her flight for Singapore,” Geslani said.
The case of the domestic helper, who was identified only as “Lilibeth,” was reported to the POEA home office by the Philippine labor attache to Malaysia, Rey Sto. Domingo.
According to Geslani, Sto. Domingo was berated by the Sultan’s wife for the failure of her Filipino helper to return and for her “unjustified offloading.”
He said various recruitment agencies have reported similar cases of domestics with valid overseas employment certificates (OECs) bound for the Middle East but offloaded “for various flimsy reasons or simply profiled to be victims of human trafficking by BI [Bureau of Immigration] agents.”
“It’s economic losses for the passengers since they have to pay the travel tax of P1,620 and airport fees of P750 every time they leave for their destinations,” Geslani said.
He pointed out that the Labor and Assistance Center was re-established by POEA at the Naia early this year to validate all travel documents of OFWs processed by the agency and who are holding OECs.
“So there is no valid or justifiable reason for the BI to withhold the departure of OFWs except to harass or extort money,” he said.
The consultant said OFWs bound for United States military facilities in Afghanistan and Iraq were also victims of “unscrupulous” BI agents who allegedly forced the OFWs to shell out amounts ranging from P30,000 to P50,000.
According to Geslani, with the lifting of the labor deployment ban to US facilities in Afghanistan, OFWs from there are coming home in droves to take overdue vacations, only to be victimized by airport immigration agents on their return.
“The BI has not stopped harassing the OFWs even if they are allowed to come back to the country and be processed at the POEA as legitimate workers,” he said.
Geslani explained that when the OFWs return to Afghanistan, they have to go by way of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. However, some of the OFWs are not allowed to board their flights at Naia because they did not have visas for Dubai.
He said the workers do not need a Dubai visa as they are just transiting through the Dubai airport to take commercial flights for the Kandahar and Bagram airfields in Afghanistan.
“Their maximum stay inside [Dubai airport’s] Terminal 2 is anywhere from three to four hours while waiting for their flights to Afghanistan,” said Geslani.
Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, a former immigration commissioner, has filed a resolution to look into the mounting complaints of abuses by immigration agents. The hearing is set to be held this month.
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