Migrante lauds OFWs in Saudi for passage of new rules protecting HSWs

domestic work as workGlobal alliance of overseas Filipinos Migrante International welcomed the new rules protecting household service workers (HSWs) in Saudi Arabia, saying that it is a victory of the continuous unity and collective action of migrant workers in the country.

The Saudi government has recently approved Household Regulations on Service Workers and Similar Categories, under Resolution No. 310.

Under said resolution, new rules outlining the rights and obligations of employers and household workers include (1) the implementation of a minimum monthly wage of SR 1,500; (2) the requirement of providing accommodation and daily rest of at least nine hours for HSWs; and, (3) the prohibition of “renting out” HSWs to others. Employers are also now required to personally attend or send an official representative to any court case or complaint lodged against them by HSWs.

“This is a positive development, considering the numerous cases of abuses, maltreatment, and lack of venues for redress for distressed overses Filipinos workers (OFWs), particularly HSWs in Saudi,” said Sol Pillas, Migrante International spokesperson.

Of the 1.8 million OFWs in Saudi, at least 300,000 are HSWs, mostly Filipina domestic workers.

Kafala system

Migrante International, however, called on the Saudi government to follow Qatar’s lead in replacing the kafala or sponsorship system.

Migrante has since identified the kafala or sponsorship system as one of the main policies that has caused the surge in number of distressed and undocumented migrant workers in Gulf countries. It has long called for the abolition of the kafala system and the improvement of the conditions of migrant workers in the Gulf region.

The kafala is an immigration and labor system imposed by governments of some Gulf countries on migrant workers. Under the kafala, no migrant worker is allowed to enter the country without an “in-country” sponsor, usually the employer. The sponsor is primarily responsible for the workers’ visa and legal status.

Also under the kafala, migrant workers’ residency permits are bound to their sponsors whose written consent is required for workers to change employers or leave the country. Employers often abuse this power to confiscate passports, withhold wages and force migrant workers into slave-like conditions. In effect, the kafala makes migrant workers more vulnerable to abuses and modern-day slavery.

“The kafala system is in direct violation of Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Universal Declaration on the Protection of Migrant Workers and their Families,” Pillas said. ###

Statement on Obama’s Executive Action on Immigration

undocsMigrante International joins millions of im/migrants in the United States in welcoming Pres. Barrack Obama’s recent Executive Action on Immigration. The decision is a direct result of the collective action and unity of US-based im/immigrants of different nationalities against the regime’s stringent immigration rules criminalizing undocumented im/migrants in the country.

Indeed, Obama’s Executive Action is an initial victory for the im/migrant movement in the US and around the world, but we must remain vigilant. It is a start but it is not enough.

The Executive Action for Immigration is selective at best. It only provides tactical relief to a specific group of im/migrants in the US – those who have been residing there for more than five years, those with children who are American citizens, those who pass a criminal background check and those who are willing to ‘pay their fare share of taxes’. While these are positive developments for those who will fit into the criteria, we remain wary of how the Obama government plans to implement the action.

What of the millions more who do not fit into the criteria? Will the Obama government continue to criminalize them?

Migrante International asserts the demand for “Legalization for All” – regardless of duration of stay, affiliation or economic circumstance. No human is illegal. Being undocumented is never reason to be stripped of one’s fundamental human rights. Undocumented im/migrants, who inevitably provide solutions to labor shortages or the clamor for cheap labor in host countries, especially in times of economic crisis, should not be marginalized and exploited. They are already less able to assert their claims and are more vulnerable to abuses. They contribute greatly to the economies of their host countries through their labor force, cultural exchange, economic consumption and the taxes they pay through their bills, utilities and purchases.

The Executive Action is also temporary and will only be implemented for certain period of time by 2015. This is reason enough for the im/migrant movement in the US and elsewhere in the world to continue fighting for the rights and welfare of the undocumented, for countries to recognize their contributions to economies as im/migrants, workers, members of society and human beings. ###

 

End Deportations Now!

Family Reunification Now!

End the criminalization of im/migrants!

End the Philippine Labor Export Policy!

Genuine Immigration Reform Now!

LEGALIZATION FOR ALL!

 

11 years not enough for convicted illegal recruiter – Migrante

wanted isidroGlobal alliance for overseas Filipinos Migrante International today welcomed a Manila regional trial court’s decision sentencing illegal recruiter and trafficker Isidro Rodriguez to 11 years in prison for victimizing a Filipina teacher.

According to Migrante, Rodriguez has just been convicted for one crime when he has numerous other pending cases of large-scale and syndicated illegal recruitment and estafa lodged against him by some 500 Filipino teachers here in the Philippines and in the United States. Three batches of teachers have also filed cases of trafficking-in-persons against him at the Department of Justice (DOJ).

Rodriguez duped the teachers through his agency, Renaissance Staffing and Support, Inc., formerly Great Provider Service Exporters, Inc., with its US partner Green Life Care International, LLC. The PH Embassy in the US said that Rodriguez tops its list of most notorious illegal recruiters and traffickers.

His victims are all licensed and professional teachers. They were all promised teaching positions in different schools in the United States, only to later learn that the said jobs were fictitious and all part of a grand trafficking scheme.

Rodriguez was able to collect a staggering average of Php500, 000. 00 from each of them as payments for their “processing, service, pick-up, housing and interview fees”. Most of the payments were made from their hard-earned savings, while majority of them resorted to borrowing money from relatives and friends, banks and loan institutions with high interest rates.

GURO

Last April 23, 2014, in the Philippines, the teachers organized GURO (Grupo ng mga Gurong Umuusig kay Rodriguez). GURO represents at least 300 teachers, and their families, who were victimized by Rodriguez.  He recruited teachers in batches, with each batch consisting of about 10 to 15 victims. Migrante International is currently aware of at least 20 batches scattered across the country, and at least 200 teachers in the US. The US-based teachers have already filed trafficking visas with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and some have been granted their T-Visas.

According to Loel Naparato, spokesperson for GURO, “While we welcome this decision, 11 years is not enough for Rodriguez. 11 years is just for one victim. All of his victims demand justice and should likewise be compensated for all the sufferings and hardships we faced because of his treachery. Tuloy ang laban para sa hustisya para sa aming mga guro.”

Manhunt

Rodriguez remains at large as of this posting. Last May 10, GURO, along with Migrante International and Gabriela in Washington, DC, launched a manhunt for him after he was previously released following a Makati RTC’s dismissal of another case against him, “People of the Philippines versus Isidro L.Rodriguez, docketed criminal case nos. 13-2830 to 13-2834”.

For her part, Engelyn Belmonte of GURO, said, “Now that he has been convicted, we expect authorities to launch an active manhunt for his arrest. We also call on our fellow teachers, supporters and advocates to join us in the manhunt for Rodriguez and our quest for justice. We call on our teachers, let us teach them, people like Rodriguez, a lesson.”

“Teach Them A Lesson”

GURO and other advocates recently launched a global campaign entitled, “Teach Them A Lesson: A Campaign for Justice for Trafficked Teachers”,  year-long campaign against illegal recruitment and trafficking.

GURO said, “Through ‘Teach Them A Lesson’, we hope to push for the speedy resolution of specific cases of trafficking and highlight the gravity of the trafficking problem itself.  We hope to make perpetrators like Rodriguez accountable. More importantly, it shall expose the government’s ineptitude and hypocrisy in the anti-trafficking campaign in the light of its continuing program for labor export.

Teach Them A Lesson aims to raise awareness and broaden support for victims of human trafficking. It shall stress the need for unity and solidarity between victims and survivors, on one hand, and their allies and supporters, on the other hand, by highlighting the importance of our teachers in our personal lives and in society.

Teach Them A Lesson means forging the broadest global unity possible against human trafficking through various activities and actions that would link international participation through grassroots activities, militamt actions, global linkages, lobbying efforts, social media and other creative means of protest.

Culmination dates are on December 12 International Day against Trafficking, December 18 International Migrants’ Day, February 14 One Billion Rising: Rise for Revolution, March 8 International Women’s Day, March 17 Death Anniversary of Flor Contemplacion, June 7 National Migrants Day and the upcoming Permanent People’s Tribunal against Aquino to be held in Washington, DC in July 2015.

For any information about Rodriguez, please contact Migrante International through landline number 9114910 or mobile number 0921-2709079. ###

Migrante welcomes Qatar’s move to replace ‘kafala’ system

Global alliance of overseas Filipinos Migrante International welcomed news that the Qatar government has promised to introduce a new legislation that would replace the controversial ‘kafala’ system by early 2015.

Migrante International has since identified the kafala or sponsorship system as one of the main policies that has caused the surge in number of distressed and undocumented migrant workers in Gulf countries. It has long called for the abolition of the kafala system and the improvement of the conditions of migrant workers in the Gulf region.

The kafala is an immigration and labor system imposed by governments of some Gulf countries on migrant workers. Under the kafala, no migrant worker is allowed to enter the country without an “in-country” sponsor, usually the employer. The sponsor is primarily responsible for the workers’ visa and legal status.

Also under the kafala, migrant workers’ residency permits are bound to their sponsors whose written consent is required for workers to change employers or leave the country. Employers often abuse this power to confiscate passports, withhold wages and force migrant workers into slave-like conditions. In effect, the kafala makes migrant workers more vulnerable to abuses and modern-day slavery.

“The kafala system is in direct violation of Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Universal Declaration on the Protection of Migrant Workers and their Families,” said Sol Pillas, Migrante International spokesperson.

She said, “While we welcome this development, we truly hope that the Qatar government will make good its promise. It is one thing to pass legislation and another thing to ensure that it is implemented to improve the conditions of migrant workers in the country.”

“We also call on other Gulf countries to follow Qatar’s lead. It is about time to abolish the antiquated and unfair system as the kafala,” Pillas said.

There is an estimated 200,000 Filipinos in Qatar, mostly working as construction workes and domestic workers. By the end of 2009, Filipinos were the second-largest group of migrant workers in Qatar and the third-largest destination of overseas Filipinos in the Middle East. ###

Trafficked Filipino teachers launch “Teach Them A Lesson” global campaign via OBR dance at the DOJ

A group of teachers victimized by an elaborate trafficking scheme in the Philippines today launched a global campaign entitled, “Teach Them A Lesson”, following the recent dismissal of the trafficking in persons (TIP) criminal case they filed before the Department of Justice (DOJ) against their traffickers.

Together with supporters, advocates and friends, the teachers held a picket protest at the DOJ this morning. They also launched the campaign through a “One Billion Rising” dance protest, led by OBR Global Director Monique Wilson inside the DOJ premises.

GURO, or “Grupo ng mga Gurong Umuusig kay Rodriguez”, bewailed the DOJ’s dismissal of the first batch of TIP against Isidro Rodriguez et al dated October 24, 2014, on grounds that the court found no probable cause to lodge the criminal complaint. The complainants had already filed a motion for reconsideration last November 10, 2014, as well as a motion for urgent resolution for the preliminary investigation of at least 20 cases of large-scale and syndicated illegal recruitment and estafa against the same respondents.

GURO represents at least 300 teachers in the Philippines and the United States who were victimized by Rodriguez. Rodriguez, through his agency Renaissance Staffing Support Center (formerly Great Provider Service Exporters, which is licensed by the Philippines Overseas Employment Administration), was able to dupe hundreds of teachers by offering them fictitious jobs in the United States. Rodriguez was able to collect an average of P500,000 from each of his victims. He recruited teachers in batches, with each batch consisting of about 10 to 15 victims. Migrante International is currently aware of at least 20 batches who have filed cases against him.

Some of the teachers were able to leave the country, only to realize that no jobs awaited them in the US. The US-based teachers have already filed human trafficking cases against Rodriguez in the US and have been granted T-Visas (trafficked visas) by US courts. Meanwhile, majority of the teachers remain in the country and only learned about Rodriguez’ treachery when he was arrested last November 2013. The Philippine-based teachers have filed case upon case of estafa and illegal recruitment in large scale against Rodriguez et al, while three batches have already filed trafficking in persons cases against him.

In the US, trafficked teachers also held a simultaneous gathering and acitivity to launch the campaign.

According to Loel Naparato, spokesperson of GURO, they are deeply saddened by the DOJ’s decision. “How can we be expected to have faith in our justice system with this development? We are fully aware of Rodriguez’ very broad clout in different government agencies, even possibly in the US and PH immigration, he could not have operated for years without them. Does this mean that Rodriguez is also powerful in the judiciary?” Rodriguez remains at large as of this posting.

“It is in this light that ‘Teach Them A Lesson’ has come to light. Today is the first year anniversary of our trafficker’s entrapment by the DOJ. One year, still no justice and many more are being victimized. Together with other victims, survivors, our students, friends, families and fellow teachers, let us teach them a lesson against abuse and exploitation. Let us teach them a lesson against trafficking. Let us teach them a lesson for justice,” Naparato said.

Teach Them A Lesson: A campaign for justice for trafficked teachers

Through “Teach Them A Lesson”, we hope to push for the speedy resolution of specific cases of trafficking and highlight the gravity of the trafficking problem itself.  We hope to make perpetrators like Rodriguez accountable. More importantly, it shall expose the government’s ineptitude and hypocrisy in the anti-trafficking campaign in the light of its continuing program for labor export. 

“Teach Them A Lesson” aims to raise awareness and broaden support for victims of human trafficking. It shall stress the need for unity and solidarity between victims and survivors, on one hand, and their allies and supporters, on the other hand, by highlighting the importance of our teachers in our personal lives and in society.

“Teach Them A Lesson” means forging the broadest global unity possible against human trafficking through various activities and actions that would link international participation through grassroots activities, militamt actions, global linkages, lobbying efforts, social media and other creative means of protest.

Culmination dates are on December 12 International Day against Trafficking, December 18 International Migrants’ Day, February 14 One Billion Rising: Rise for Revolution, March 8 International Women’s Day, March 17 Death Anniversary of Flor Contemplacion, June 7 National Migrants Day and the upcoming Permanent People’s Tribunal against Aquino to be held in Washington, DC in July 2015. Majority of Rodriguez’ victims in the US are presently based in Washington, DC.

The campaign is a year-long campaign. A “Vagina Monologues” play is targeted to be staged on December 12, while an internationally-coordinated action is slated on December 18, International Migrants’ Day. ###

One year after Yolanda: DOLE-sponsored work-abroad job fairs spell double jeopardy for Yolanda survivors

885502_10152297575969788_6830395852290430658_oA year after supertyphoon Yolanda, those who availed job vacancies abroad offered in Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE)-sponsored job fairs in Yolanda-stricken areas are not better off. Instead, their conditions have gone from bad to worse.

This was the statement made by Migrante International as the nation commemorates the first year anniversary of the supertyphoon that has caused thousands upon thousands of lives, homes and livelihood in Eastern Visayas on November 8.

“A year after Yolanda, still no relief, still no justice and still no accountability from the Aquino government. Worse, the government has placed survivors-turned-OFWs in double jeopardy by offering them ‘dirty, dangerous and difficult’ jobs abroad in DOLE-sponsored job fairs which made them vulnerable to illegal recruitment, violations and abuses,” said Sol Pillas, Migrante International spokesperson.

Pillas said that this should serve as a warning to job-seeking survivors, as the DOLE is again set on launching similar job fairs come November and December 2014, with DOLE Sec. Rosalinda Baldoz marking them as “a sign of progress” after Yolanda struck a year ago.

“This government has the nerve to claim progress when all it has done is to feed on the desperation and vulnerability of victims and survivors. These job fairs do not benefit survivors at all, but rather offer them up to abusive recruitment agencies for the government’s profit and labor export,” she said.

Pillas cited the case of OFW Mary Ann Miralles, 26 years old, who was recruited to work as a domestic worker in Dammam, Saudi Arabia during a DOLE-sponsored job fair in Ormoc City, Leyte. Her recruitment agency, Joseline International Manpower Corporation, was one of the accredited agencies in the job fair. She was able to leave the country last February 12, 2014.

Last September, Miralles’ family sought the help of Migrante upon learning that she fell ill due to over-fatigue and abusive work hours. She told them that she is being made to serve 10 people in one household for at least 20 hours a day. She also complained of verbal abuse from her employer. Due to over-fatigue, she collapsed and fainted last September 13, 2014.

She has filed for repatriation and is still awaiting appropriate action from the Philippine government.

“One year after Yolanda, we bear witness to how the Aquino government preys on calamity-stricken areas to intensify its labor export policy at the expense of the rights and welfare of our countrymen. The labor export policy is nothing but a big business venture from which big businesses and corporations profit, with OFWs as their milking cows,” Pillas said. ###

“ABAD, BUTCHer of OFW funds!” – Migrante

abad butcherMigrante International slammed what it called DBM Sec. Abad’s “BUTCHering of OFW funds” in the 2015 national budget.

According to Sol Pillas, Migrante International spokesperson, the DBM deleted the P89.6-million budget initially penned in the proposed 2015 budget for the implementation of the overseas absentee voting (OAV).

“It is highly unfortunate that the DBM views the OAV budget as one of the dispensable items in the 2015 budget, while it is loathe to remove pork barrel, DAP and other DAP-like questionable lump-sum funds. This government would rather take away OFWs’ right to vote than give up sources of funds for massive corruption,” Pillas said.

She added that the DBM also slashed funds for OFW services, among them legal assistance, assistance to nationals and repatriation.

“What happened to the annual P100-million Legal Assistance Fund (LAF) for OFWs?” Pillas asked. She said that the LAF is sourced from the Presidential Social Fund of P50-million; Contingency Fund of the President of P30-million, and; OWWA of P20-million. Pillas said that only P30-million has been allocated for the LAF since BS Aquino became president in 2011.

She added that based on DFA disbursement reports, the DFA has at least P6-billion unused funds from 2010 to 2013. She revealed that a large chunk of the so-called “savings” were from the “underspent” allocations for the Overseas Absentee Voting (OAV) and the Assistance to Nationals (ATN).

From 2010 to 2013, only 34% of the appropriations for the OAV was used up. As for the ATN budget, disbursement totalled only to P741-million while P19-billion was allocated for the budget item “protection of national interest of Filipino nationals abroad.”

This were the same period when the DAP funds were accumulated, Pillas said.

“We have enough reasons to suspect that the BS Aquino administration, through its main ‘Budget Butcher’ Sec. Butch Abad, may have siphoned billions of unused funds of the DFA for DAP. May pera sa DAP pero wala para sa mga serbisyo at proteksyon sa OFWs. Bakit magkakaroon ng savings ang DFA samantalang libo-libo ang mga migrante ang nagrereklamo na hindi sila natulungan ng gobyerno,” she said. ###