Manila to repatriate 492 OFWs

DUBAI - Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs), mostly domestic helpers, in Dubai who complain of employers' maltreatment, are being repatriated on a daily basis to the Philippines, said Philippine Labour Attache Vicente Cabe who is based at the Consulate General in Dubai.

By Ramona Ruiz

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Published: Tue 15 Jun 2004, 10:02 AM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 1:56 PM

Mr Cabe was confirming a recent report which stated that Acting Labour Secretary Manuel Imson had issued a repatriation order of at least 492 OFWs in five Middle Eastern countries, including the UAE, amid increasing incidence of abuses against them.

According to the report, there were 48 OFWs in the UAE who had to be repatriated. There were 327 in Kuwait, 83 in Saudi Arabia and 22 in Lebanon who were ordered to be repatriated. Mr Imson had also stated that the government would also repatriate those interested in returning home.

"We have received such an order from the department although we have been repatriating OFWs for a long time now. The 48 OFWs, I believe, is for Dubai alone. We cannot keep up with the numbers as repatriation here is very very fluid. Some are repatriated, while others come to seek our assistance. It is our responsibility to ensure that OFWs are not maltreated or abused in the workplace. The housemaids complain of abuse, maltreatment and sexual harassment," he said.

He, however, admitted that there was no way his office can prove the allegations that they were maltreated or abused unless they bear marks or bruises. "We do not have investigative powers," he explained.

Mr Cabe added that they liaise with the employers for the visa cancellation, the retrieval of the passport, as well as the provision of the airline ticket to Manila, if applicable.

His office coordinates with the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) in Manila for the air tickets of runaways who are OWWA members. It seeks ways and means to raise the amount for their air tickets for those whose employment papers were not processed at the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) and are not bonafide OWWA members.

Roselyn (not her real name), a 42-year-old mother of three from Manila, was lured into working as a domestic helper in Dubai as it did not require any expense prior to her departure from the Philippines.

"It was through my friend's brother that I got to know about a job opening for a domestic helper in Dubai. I did not have to go through any recruitment which usually charges placement fees. My employer, who owns a fashion house, sent me a visit visa and a return plane ticket. I was made to understand that after a certain period, I would be having an employment visa," she said.

The profession on the visit visa read "businessperson", but she didn't encounter any problems with the Bureau of Immigration personnel stationed at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.

"I thought I was very lucky to land a job as a domestic helper without having to pay anything. I used to work as a baby-sitter in Saudi Arabia for four and a half years, and had to shell out a huge sum of money to go overseas. I also thought that the workload here would not be very demanding as my employer also hired the services of another maid. It was such a tough job, having to work non-stop from 5.30am till 11pm. My lady employer would often scream at me and insult me. I couldn't bear the torture anymore so after one and a half months, I decided to run away from my employer," she narrated.

She added that she was promised a salary of $250, but when she reached Dubai, her salary was a measly Dh700.

In December 2003, Roselyn left her employer's house to seek help from passers-by on the street. Philippine labour officials who learned of her dilemma, arranged for her repatriation to Manila. The employer said they were willing to let her go, and agreed to bear the cost of her plane ticket back home.

"I won't be coming back to Dubai on a visit visa. I would rather be with my family in the Philippines and help my husband in our family business. I hope that those who have come on visit visas will not be maltreated by their employers. I would of course advise my friends and relatives to deal with recruitment agencies in Manila," she said.

Roselyn had already left for the Philippines early this year, and hopes that the struggles she had undergone would serve as a lesson to other Filipinos who are desperately seeking employment abroad.

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