Global alliance of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and families Migrante International today said that the Department of Foreign Affairs’ (DFA) ‘dilly-dallying’ on the deployment ban confirms fears that the government is unready to implement said policy.
Migrante International chairperson Garry Martinez earlier questioned the government’s readiness to address the repercussions and implications of the ban. He cited two major concerns, namely, 1) that the government is not ready to absorb the effects of the ban on unemployment among OFWs, and, 2) that the ban may result in more cases of human trafficking and illegal recruitment.
“Now that the DFA has withdrawn its certification for 41 countries that served as basis for a deployment ban by the POEA, our fears have been confirmed. This is not about really taking action to ensure the protection of the rights of OFWs. This latest move was simply lip service, a media blitz that backfired and now they have no choice but to backtrack,” he said.
Martinez also questioned the DFA’s criteria for certification. “The DFA should make public its criteria for certification, if they are really complying with what is stipulated in RA 10022,” he said.
“We are very worried that the DFA might have haphazardly approved applications of some countries where abuses and violations of our migrants’ rights are rampant, especially in the Middle East,” said Martinez.
In Jordan, which was declared “compliant” by the DFA and whose ban has recently been lifted by the POEA, Migrante had reported cases of “state-sponsored human trafficking” wherein embassy posts were involved. Saudi Arabia, where human rights abuses against OFWs are not secret, was also certified “safe for work” by the DFA.
RA 10022 stipulates that a country viable for OFW deployment should have existing labor and social laws protecting rights of workers, including migrant workers, that it should be a signatory of bilateral or multilateral agreements relating to the protection of migrant workers, or that it has taken “positive and concrete measures” to protect migrant workers.
“Given that majority of our OFWs who are victims of abuses are in domestic work and in informal sectors, what then could have been the basis of the DFA when none, except for Hong Kong, recognize domestic work as work thus affording domestic workers their rights under a country’s labor code?”
Likewise, Martinez said, though the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) has announced that the government presently has more than 100 bilateral agreements with different countries, they have yet to make available the scope and content of such agreements. “We do not even know what countries we have bilateral agreements with and if they contain clauses that protect rights of our migrants.”
“What the DFA should do is to conduct a comprehensive review and present a full report of the conditions and human and labor rights situation of OFWs in countries where they are deployed before certifying them as ‘safe’,” Martinez said.
Martinez said, “We must keep in mind that our OFWs are forced to work abroad because there are no decent wages and jobs here. Kung seryoso sila sa pag-ban, dapat ay seryosohin din nila ang paglikha ng trabaho, pagbigay ng dagdag-sahod at tunay na reporma sa lupa dito sa Pilipinas. This is the main problem of the government’s labor export, it’s damn if you, damn if you don’t.” ###