Despair, naivete drive OFWs to near certain problems abroad

Published September 27, 2021, 12:12 AM

by Jun Concepcion


Jun Concepcion

More and more Filipino women are leaving for jobs overseas despite  high prospects of experiencing hardships and getting a raw deal in their countries of destination.

Cases in point are women who wish to work in Russia from the Philippines, Hong Kong and different countries in the Middle East. Lured by monthly salaries of up to US$1,500 to $2,000 or up to P100,000 a month, they throw virtually all caution to the wind in their wild and thoughtless chase for a monthly salary way beyond their reach in the Philippines. Unless and until they get extremely lucky, that astronomical salary is often accessible only to a select small number of individuals in the country, notably senior executives in private corporations and middle-ranked officials in government.

Exchanges in an OFW Facebook chat group focused on jobs and life in Russia, reveal the sorry, worrying  and even pathetic frame of mind of scores who wish to join the race for big money in that country. Some have spoken about wanting to stay in Russia despite difficulties in getting extensions of their visas which are actually earmarked for visiting foreign businessmen and professionals, and not for foreign domestics. Others have spoken about doubts on whether or not to entrust large sums to recruiters, presumably illegal, but the former have nevertheless indicated their resolve to proceed to Russia no matter the cost.

Scores, who present themselves as leaders in Russia’s Filipino community, take a deplorably nonchalant stance despite knowing the hazards for first-time illegal OFWs who wish to enter that country. Certain presumptive community leaders take a cold uncaring view that first timers should know better than proceed at their own risks with their plans to enter and seek employment in Russia.

Because of their illegal status in Russia, certain hapless OFWs have experienced constant fears of getting accosted on the streets or train stations by wayward policemen, penalized, jailed and in extreme instances, sexually assaulted. Despite harassments, extortions and sexual assaults by scalawag policemen, victims dared not file formal complaints against culprits and seek Philippine government assistance because of their illegal stature in Russia.

About five years ago, this writer was told by a senior Philippine embassy official in Moscow that most of the 4,000-odd Filipinos, engaged in domestic helper work in Russia, were illegals. There was no employment visa then for foreign domestic helpers. The situation today remains unchanged. This makes all Filipinos currently engaged in domestic helper work in Russia as illegals as their temporary stay hinged on “business” or tourist visas which prescribe a brief period of stay in the country.  

Just like Filipinos who seek to enter in Russia and those already there, other Filipinas, like single mother and former Hong Kong OFW Janice M, are oblivious of the hazards of taking up jobs in the Middle East. But driven by extreme pressures and hardships of caring for four children all by her lonesome, she has ignored stern warnings of perils by close friends. She now awaits her much-awaited departure for Saudi Arabia. “Bahala na si Lord sa akin (I leave everything to the Lord),” she said in response to suggestions by friends who suggested that she gets back to Hong Kong instead where she will be much safer and better at work than in the Middle East.   

Clearly, scores of outgoing OFWs are oblivious and they even ignore advice to be selective in their choice of destination abroad, lest they get exposed to considerable risks of getting physically abused, raped and even killed in the Middle East. Sadly, Russia-bound OFWs take a similar stance.

To address this problematic situation and bolster government protection to outgoing OFWs, relevant government agencies, especially the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration, should consider adopting the following measures:

1] Intensify and widen multimedia campaigns to inform outgoing OFWs specific countries where the incidence of abuses is high, like in Saudi Arabia, and where work visas for OFWs are non-existent, notably Russia

2] Undertake a regular multimedia campaign, not simply a one-off posting in POEA’s website or sporadic publicity so as to bolster assistance to outgoing OFWs

3] Government should revamp and change drastically strategies and ineffective actions against illegal recruiters and human traffickers, including individual operators

4] If 5 or more complaints are made against specific agencies or individuals, those complaints should be publicized to warn jobseekers against the subject of complaints

5] Licenses to operate of agencies should be suspended immediately if a significant number of complaints, i.e. 5 or more, are made against them. Initial suspension can be for 10 work days, but should be extended right away until complaints are acted upon.

6] Individual recruiters or human traffickers should be summoned to the nearest Philippine embassy or consulate to respond to complaints from recruitment victims.  

Contact writer at [email protected]