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. ###

Migrante condemns criminalization of undocumented migrants in EU-wide crackdown

undocsGlobal alliance of overseas Filipinos Migrante International condemns in strongest terms the ongoing crackdowns resulting in the criminalization of undocumented migrants and refugees being implemented by the European Union.

The EU-wide crackdown called “MOS MAIORUM” has launched massive police operations to hunt down undocumented or irregular migrants and refugees in the region. Operations have started last October 13 and is set to end on October 26. MOS MAIORUM has been approved by the Council of the European Union last July 10, 2014 and is being implemented under Italy’s presidency of the Council of the European Union.

Overseas Filipino workers and Filipino migrants in Europe have expressed grave concern as more than 20,000 police officers have been deployed in massive operations ranging from increasing checks in airports, stations, trains, main roads and highways to house raids. The main objective of the operations is to actively hunt down undocumented migrants and arrest as many as possible within the time frame of its implementation.

“We call on the European Union to call for a stop this inhumane operation. Under the guise of going after crime and trafficking syndicates, MOS MAIORUM is giving license to EU authorities and police to indiscriminately arrest and violate the rights of irregular migrants, and promote xenophobia and racial discrimination,” said Garry Martinez, Migrante International chairperson.

Martinez said that MOS MAIORUM is in direct violation of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families. These conventions do not discriminate against undocumented and irregular migrant workers, he said.

“Being undocumented is never reason to be stripped of one’s fundamental human rights. Undocumented migrants and refugees, 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. MOS MAIORUM will only make them more susceptible to grave abuses and human rights violations.”

Martinez said that while they fully support moves to prevent human trafficking, Migrante believes that MOS MAIORUM will not solve but rather further exacerbate the problem. Instead of arresting irregular migrants and treating them as criminals, their status should be rectified because it makes them more vulnerable to abuse and exploitation by crime syndicates.

Further, MOS MAIORUM is being implemented at a time when health epidemics, civil wars and conflicts in the Middle East-North Africa region and elsewhere in the world continue. Millions of people are on the run because of these. Such a situation makes it a tool for crime and trafficking syndicates to intensify their activities. Constricting borders and implementing stringent immigration policies will not only cost lives but will also worsen trafficking in persons in the region, Martinez said.

Migrante International supports the international campaign for the de-criminalization and legalization of undocumented migrants and refugees.

According to December 2011 data of the Department of Foreign Affairs, there is an estimated 746,701 Filipinos in Europe, 138,088 are undocumented. ###

 

Migrante calls for justice for Laude, US troops out of PH soil

photo from dailymail.co.uk

photo from dailymail.co.uk

Global alliance of overseas Filipinos Migrante International joins other sectors in calling for justice for the brutal murder of transgender Filipina Jennifer Laude.

According to Mic Catuira, Migrante International spokesperson, Laude’s heinous murder is a blatant reminder of the numerous crimes committed by US troops against Filipinos and how the Philippine government would opt to turn a blind eye on justice just to protect US interests.

Catuira said that Private First Class Joseph Scott Pemberton of the US Marine, the prime suspect in Laude’s murder, should not be allowed to enjoy the same fate as US Lance Corporal Daniel Smith of the Subic rape case. Smith was not tried in Philippine courts because, under the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), the US acquires automatic jurisdiction over its troops.

“Laude’s case once again underlines the one-sidedness of the VFA and reinforces how the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) cis designed to further protect US troops from being prosecuted and punished for crimes against the Filipino people,” Catuira said.

He slammed the Philippine government for “being too quick to defend the VFA and EDCA” despite public clamor for justice for Laude. The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and Malacanang recently issued separate statements saying that the BS Aquino government stands by VFA and EDCA and that “it will not be deterred” by the crime.

Tunay na nakakagalit ang pusisyong ito ng gobyerno. We call on all Filipinos around the world to intensify calls to scrap the VFA and EDCA and call for the expulsion of US troops from Philippine soil. We enjoin all freedom-loving Filipinos and human rights advocates around the world to exert pressure on the BS Aquino government to acquire jurisdiction over Pemberton so that justice may served,” he said.

“We especially call on our Filipino compatriots in the US to demand that US Pres. Obama relinquish jurisdiction over Pemberton so that he may tried and prosecuted in the Philippines,” he said.

Eye-opener

Catuira also said the Laude’s brutal murder should also serve as an eye-opener to the general public on the rights of the LGBT sector.

Caturia, a transgender male, said that he felt saddened upon reading vicious comments and sentiments in social networking sites that prey on Laude’s gender. “Let us stop the hate and unite for justice. Now is the time to open our eyes and minds and not blame the victim just because of her gender.”

He called on all all LGBT Filipinos in the Philippines and around the world to unite for justice for Laude and to call for the scrapping of the VFA and EDCA. ###

 

In solidarity with the people of Hong Kong

Filipino migrants in solidarity with HK workers at the protests

Filipino migrants in solidarity with HK workers at the protests

Global alliance of overseas Filipinos Migrante International expresses its solidarity with the people of Hong Kong in their uprising for universal suffrage and against repression and police brutality.

Migrante International condemns in strongest terms the human rights violations and suppression of civil liberties being carried out by the Hong Kong government as a response to the ongoing full-blown occupation of areas surrounding the Central Government Office (CGO).

The growing movement for universal suffrage is a result of years and years of discontent against the Hong Kong government for failing to address problems such as lack of social services, disregard of the condition of workers, violations of rights and other anti-people and anti-migrant policies.

Migrante International calls on all freedom-loving Filipinos to stand in solidarity with the people of Hong Kong.

Hong Kong is home to at least 240,000 Filipinos. As Filipinos, we can sympathize with the people of Hong Kong. We are also presently protesting the dictatorship of the BS Aquino regime. Like the people of Hong Kong, our rights and civil liberties are also under attack as we clamor and continue to struggle for genuine social change and our democratic rights. We recognize the sovereign right of every peoples to assemble and protest against tyranny and fascism. We realize how only through unity and collective struggle can oppressed peoples bring about change.

Stand against repression! Defend the people’s democratic rights! Long live international solidarity! ###