Call to steer clear of unlicensed agencies

DUBAI — Filipinos who come to the UAE to seek employment should not deal with private individuals and agencies not licensed by the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) so that the problem of illegal recruitment can be more effectively addressed, commented Libran Cabactulan, Philippine Ambassador to the UAE.

By Ramona Ruiz

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Published: Fri 10 Dec 2004, 12:22 PM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 1:25 PM

The government, he said, is trying its best to prevent illegal recruitment, if not totally eliminate the problem through its various agencies such as the POEA, National Bureau of Investigation and the Philippine National Police.

“They should first verify from POEA if there is an existing job order for jobs being promised and check if an agency or individual is licensed. As it is now, applicants fall prey to unscrupulous individuals and recruiters because of their eagerness to seek employment abroad. They tend to jump at the first ship that comes along,” he said, adding that a more intensive public information campaign should be done on this issue.

Admittedly, the affidavit of support and notarise written declaration of companies to Filipinos travelling to the UAE on visit visas has in a way helped solve illegal recruitment.

“It serves as a deterrent for sponsors who want to make quick money by selling visit visas. However, as a result of Memorandum Order No. 04-015 issued by Immigration Commissioner Alipio Fernandez Jr., holders of valid visit visas must be allowed to leave the Philippines without requiring any other documents except those prescribed by Philippine laws such as the Authority to Travel by the Department of Social Welfare and Development.”

The issuance and processing of the affidavit of support had been suspended with effect from October 31 this year. The document has also helped prevent Filipinos from using the UAE as a jump-off point when travelling to Iraq. “The visit visa clearly defines the UAE as the destination. However, from here we cannot control those with onward flights to Iraq particularly if the sponsor is holding a separate visa for the onward journey,” Mr Cabactulan noted.

Commenting on Filipinos which convert visit visas to employment visas, he stated: “We do not see any problem Filipinos who managed to convert their visit visas to employment as to seek employment is actually the hidden agenda of their coming here. Before a visit visa is converted to employment, an employment contract from the UAE's Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs is prepared, giving the worker ample protection on the basis of the UAE labour law.”

He added: “On the other hand, we encourage workers who came on a visit visa but later converted to employment visa to have their contracts verified by the Philippine Overseas Labour Office and apply for membership to the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) so their status could be converted to legal workers.”

The workers, he explained, will also be entitled to benefits accorded to documented overseas Filipino workers. Should problems arise, the Philippine diplomatic mission in the UAE will mediate with the sponsor and if no amicable agreement is reached, the case is elevated to the labour court.

“Problems arise when a worker on a visit visa finds employment and works for a certain company without converting their visa to employment. Such employment will be short-lived as the visit visa is only for three months. Some companies will ask the worker to exit to Kish island, and issue another visa for the same duration. These are the workers who are either underpaid or not paid at all. The embassy is helpless in such cases as we have no legal documents to run after the sponsor,” Mr Cabactulan stressed.

He said that the embassy would coordinate with the immigration department regarding the illegal practice of sponsors. “We normally place such corrupt sponsors and companies on our watchlist to prevent them from sponsoring other Filipino workers,” he concluded.

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