A few months ago, three suspects were arrested in Cebu for illegally recruiting Filipinos to work in Dubai. Just recently, the Philippine Bureau of Immigration (BI) advised its officers to watch for OFWs bound for Iraq, but are heading to Dubai as their transition point.
Following reports that human traffickers have been using Dubai as a transition point for illegally deployed OFWs bound for Iraq, the BI officers at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) have been told to strictly screen Filipinos heading to the emirate.
BI Officers to Rigidly Screen Filipinos Heading to Dubai
According to a press release issued on 29th November 2019, BI Commissioner Jaime Morente issued the order soon after the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) reported about an alleged scheme, where syndicates have been illegally recruiting Filipinos via social media to work in Iraq — despite a current ban on the deployment of OFWs in the country.
Apparently, online ads have been circulating on social media, falsely claiming that the deployment ban in Iraq has been limited, and that there are newly-opened job vacancies in the country.
In a directive to BI Port Operations Division (POD) Chief Grifton Medina, Morente stated: “Immigration officers are directed to exercise extra vigilance in clearing the departure of Filipino travelers bound for Dubai, particularly those who are departing as tourists, and make sure that they are not going to other foreign destinations in order to work.”
Likewise, the BI Commissioner directed airport officials to be on the lookout for the names of several OFWs who have allegedly been recruited to work as restaurant waiters in Baghdad, based on information from the DFA.
“Be sure that none of these illegal OFWs disguised as tourists are able to leave the country,” Morente said. “They should be stopped and turned over to the IACAT (Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking) if encountered, for their protection.”
Meanwhile, Medina shared that the said OFWs had already been issued working visas in Iraq, based on information from the Philippine Embassy in Baghdad. Allegedly, they have agreed to reimburse through salary deduction the deployment costs spent by their recruiters.
“There are also reports that Iraq-bound OFWs are deployed there by first sending them off as tourists to Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur before they proceed to Baghdad. Our immigration officers were already properly alerted of this scheme so they better think twice,” Medina said.
Morente explained that this was a form of human trafficking through debt-bondage. “These illegal recruiters will sweet-talk their victims, encouraging them to take the job offers while the costs will be deducted from their salaries,” he stated. “When they get to their work sites, many are enslaved, given meager salaries, and made to work more than they [were] supposed to in order to pay off their alleged debt.”
It is truly dismaying to hear about unscrupulous groups taking advantage of our fellowmen and leading them to exploitative work. It is also alarming to hear that Dubai is being used as a transition point for such schemes. We must remain vigilant against such activities by staying alert and by being careful especially when looking for overseas jobs online.