By Roy Mabasa and Ariel Fernandez
A total of 158 distressed overseas Filipino workers, mostly victims of illegal recruitment, were repatriated from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) over the weekend, the Department of Foreign Affairs said on Sunday.
According to a DFA statement, of the total number of the repatriated OFWs, 74 came from Abu Dhabi and 84 from Dubai.
Philippine Consul General to Dubai Paul Raymund Cortes said the repatriated workers were found to have left the country using short-term visit visas and were promised to be issued with work visa by illegal recruiters.
“Many of them were overworked, suffered maltreatment, and experienced contract violations by their employer,” Cortes said.
In view of the latest repatriation, the DFA reiterated its warning to Filipinos seeking employment abroad against the use of tourist or visit visas to secure overseas jobs.
It said that OFWs without the proper employment documents are more prone to abuses and exploitation by their employers.
“The Department has been receiving reports about illegal recruiters using a third or fourth country, usually where visa is not required for Filipinos and some countries in the Middle East, as jump-off points to send Filipino workers to banned destinations,’ the foreign affairs office said.
Since January 2019, more than 4,800 overseas Filipinos have been repatriated to the country from the UAE, costing the government over 135.34 million pesos.
In 2018, a total of 5,842 OFWs were repatriated from Dubai and 3,533 from Abu Dhabi, amounting to more than 175.21 million pesos worth of assistance.
The DFA shouldered the maintenance and operating costs of government shelters in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, the cost of processing of exit visas, and their airfare to Manila and respective home provinces.
Similarly, the DFA strongly condemned the abuses being experienced by OFWs in the hands of their recruiters or employers, adding that the department will continue to partner with other member agencies of the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT) to prevent and suppress trafficking.
The IACAT is the central coordinating body that monitors and oversees the strict implementation of the Expanded Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act.
Under the said law, it is mandated, among others, to establish the necessary institutional mechanism for the protection and support of trafficked persons and ensure the timely, coordinated and effective response to cases of trafficking in persons particularly in the investigation and prosecution of trafficking of person cases.
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