OFW group worried over DFA certification of countries “safe for deployment”

Global alliance of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) Migrante International today expressed concern over reports that the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has already declared “safe for deployment” at least half of the 180 countries that applied for certification.

“We are very concerned 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 Garry Martinez, Migrante International chairperson.

As of October, countries that had recently submitted certification, as per Republic Act 10022 or the amended Migrants’ Act, and which were declared safe by the DFA are Cambodia, Timor-Leste, Kuwait, Laos, Myanmar, Ireland, Saipan, Norway, Syria, and Vietnam.

Of these, Migrante International has recorded cases of human rights violations and abuses from Syria and Kuwait.

Martinez also said that the DFA should immediately make public the full list of countries so far certified “safe”. He expressed particular contention over the possible certification of countries where there are existing deployment bans, such as Jordan and Afghanistan.

It can be recalled that the DFA earlier admitted that it had failed to employ the deployment ban in Afghanistan, following the deaths of some Filipino pilots late this year.

In Jordan, Migrante had reported cases of “state-sponsored human trafficking” wherein embassy posts were involved in the authentication of employment certificates of some 300 OFWs who were victims of trafficking. The 300 OFWs have been stranded in the POLO-OWWA in Jordan, awaiting repatriation after they had run away from employers who had maltreated them.

“The DFA should also make public its criteria for certification, if they really comply with what is stipulated in RA 10022,” Martinez said.

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 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”. ####