Group seeks disclosure of safety nets for Pinay au pairs in light of abuses

A migrant political party called on the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to disclose concrete and specific safety nets it crafted to ensure the protection of Filipina au pairs following reports of a 40-year-old Norwegian man who was charged last February for repeatedly raping a Filipina au pair and attempted rape of another Filipina au pair in Rogaland, Norway.

Migrante Sectoral Party expressed deep concern over the growing number of grave abuses and cases of human trafficking, enslavement and rape of Filipina au pairs all over Europe. According to Connie Bragas-Regalado, president of Migrante Sectoral Party, there is an urgent need for the Philippine government to ensure the protection and uphold the rights and integrity of Filipina au pairs.

In the European Agreement/Convention on the Placement of Au Pairs, “au pairs” are defined as “parts of the family” that are welcome to stay in European households to a maximum of two years under a cultural exchange program.

Au pairs are girls between the ages 18 and 30 years. They are not domestic workers nor exchange students nor nannies. Under the au pair system, they are asked to do light household work and caring for small children. In exchange, their hosts are required to send them to school to learn the culture and language of their host countries. They are also to be given allowances (not salaries), ranging from 300 to 400 euros a month. After contract, au pairs are returned to their countries of origin by their host families.

In 1997, the Philippine government imposed a ban on the deployment of au pairs to Europe following reports of maltreatment and excessive working hours. The ban was lifted in all European countries recently, and some 1,500 to 2,000 Filipino are expected to be deployed as au pairs to Europe following the lifting of the ban.

“The DFA lifted the ban on account of supposedly having already devised a strict monitoring system and

crafted new guidelines for the protection of au pairs. Until now, however, contents of said new guidelines remain vague and, based on the still growing number of abuses and human trafficking, ineffective,” Bragas-Regalado said.

She said that apart from “simplifying and minimizing documentary requirements” for departing au pairs, no clear and concrete safety nets seem to be in place. “From what we gather, they have simply made it a lot easier to send au pairs abroad but we have yet to see mechanisms that ensure their protection and integrity.”

Bragas-Regalado called on lawmakers to conduct investigations on abuses, rape and sexual harassment cases of au pairs “to be able to effectively come up with appropriate recommendations for much-needed reforms and bilateral agreements with host countries on the au pair program.”

She also raised the alarm on the growing number of human trafficking cases involving au pairs. “There have been an increasing number of Filipina au pairs through the years, despite the long-term ban, because no job opportunities are available here. While some au pairs do go abroad for the cultural exchange program, the reality is that most Filipinas migrate as au pairs to seek work. The end result, they perform tasks of domestic workers, far beyond what is specified in the au pair program, and suffer grave abuses.”

Bragas-Regalado also called on the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) to investigate agencies that recruit and deploy au pairs. “Under the program, au pairs are not required to go through the POEA, so there is clearly no check and balance on agencies that may be involved in trafficking au pairs,” she said.

She cited investigations conducted by Migrante-Europe on au pairs who were deployed during the ban wherein they were asked by agencies to pay an average of P25,000 in placement fees. “Ang sistema, they left on travel visas and when they arrived in Europe their host families exchange their documents into au pair visas.”

“Now that the ban has been lifted, there is a need to look into these cases where local recruiters, immigration officers, European families and au pair counterpart agencies abroad were, and possibly still are, obviously in connivance,” she said.###