HRW group: Deployment ban of OFWs in Middle East poses more harm than good
Imposing a ban on the deployment of overseas Filipino workers (OFW) in the Middle East may “do more harm than good” as it could push workers to resort to unsafe and unregulated channels, a human rights group warned Saturday.
President Rodrigo Duterte, instead, should demand stronger protections and better enforcement of labor protection, Human Rights Watch (HRW) women’s rights division researcher Rothna Begum said.
“Such a ban would likely do more harm than good, forcing workers to take greater risks to seek overseas employment while cutting off a critical source of income for families in the Philippines,” Begum said in a statement.
Workers, she said, might resort to unsafe and unregulated channels, “leaving them more exposed to abuse and trafficking and making it more difficult to address abuses once they are working in the Middle East.”
“The experience of other countries like Indonesia, that have instituted bans on their nationals similar to that threatened by President Duterte, is that such bans do not end these abuses,” she added.
The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), days after the order of Duterte, suspended last week the processing of overseas employment certificates (OEC) of workers bound for Kuwait following the deaths of seven OFW who allegedly suffered from sexual abuses from their employers.
Those who already have plane tickets and OEC, however, would still be allowed to leave, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said.
Begum said that instead of a ban, the Philippines, a leader in instituting protections for their domestic workers in the Middle East, should demand stronger protections for Filipino workers.
“They should advocate for an end to the abusive kafala (visa sponsorship) system which ties migrant workers to their employers and prohibits them from leaving or changing jobs without their employer’s permission,” she said.
“They should also call for better enforcement of labor protections and improved cooperation from Middle East governments to work with the Philippine embassy to help rescue workers in distress and conduct investigations into worker deaths,” she added. /jpv
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