INTERNATIONAL MIGRANTS’ DAY | DOLE urged to look into foreign recruiters’ use of illegal agents in Mindanao

December 18, 2017 - 7:24 PM
File photo of Overseas Filipino Workers at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport. Photo by Bernard Testa, InterAksyon.

As the world celebrates International Migrants’ Day, a recruitment and migration expert is urging Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III to look into the proliferation of foreign-owned recruitment agencies using illegal agents – particularly in Mindanao – who are paid for each applicant they bring in.

In a press release, Emmanuel Geslani asked Bello to task Philippine Overseas Employment Administration officer-in-charge Bernard Olalia to investigate the expansion of local agencies with foreign ownership – mostly controlled by backers from the Middle East, some of whom marry Filipinas to gain permanent residency in the Philippines and conduct their business.

Such recruitment agencies are “capturing most of the available applicants in Mindanao through the use of illegal agents,” according to Geslani. He cited “many local agencies” deploying household service workers (HSWs) as saying these foreign-owned agencies have acquired many applicants in Mindanao by using illegal agents who are paid as much as $500 for each applicant they bring in.

According to one of his sources, an agency is even “buying” applicants who already have passports for P20,000 to P30,000 each.

As of 2016, 275,073 HSWs have been deployed all over the world, based on POEA figures. This is an increase of over 80,000 HSWs from 2015.

Geslani said demand is strongest in Saudi Arabia (107,298 HSWs), followed by Kuwait (57,726), and Qatar (27,877).

There was also “a noticeable surge” in Hong Kong, with 41,925 Filipino HSWs in 2016 as compared to 27,148 before that.

Geslani suspects that Hong Kong agencies are trafficking some of the HSWs to China.

These are the top destinations for Filipino Household Service Workers for 2006 to 2016. Image courtesy of Emmanuel Geslani.

“It’s time the promises of many administrations for the OFWs’ welfare turn into reality,” Senator Francis Pangilinan said in a separate statement. “Government agencies in charge of migrant workers should strengthen their capacity to attend to the needs of the OFWs, especially those in distress. Philippine offices abroad should be prompt and efficient in assisting the OFWs in all their concerns.”

“The government should fully implement the laws related to migrant workers such as the Migrant Workers Act by giving them adequate budget to be able to respond to the needs of OFWs — from recruitment to employment to reintegration,” he added.

It can be recalled that during last month’s Association of Southeast Asian Nations Summit held in Manila, the ten ASEAN leaders signed the “ASEAN Consensus on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Migrant Workers”. It is a landmark document that the Department of Foreign Affairs says will further strengthen social protection, access to health services, access to justice, and access to humane and fair treatment for the migrant workers in the region.