“Sex-for-ticket” exploitation intensified during crackdowns – Migrante

Global alliance of overseas Filipinos Migrante International today said that the “sex-for-ticket” issue is an exploitation borne out of the Aquino government’s failure to address immediate repatriation of distressed OFWs (overseas Filipino workers) and that the abuse of OFWs by erring embassy and consulate officials intensified during the crackdowns on undocumented OFWs in the Middle East.

Migrante International chairperson Garry Martinez reminded concerned government agencies and the Aquino administration of the “bigger picture” behind the “sex-for-ticket” issue.

“The bottom line here is abusive embassy and consulate officials are taking advantage of the desperation of OFWs. The further exploitation of the exploited. This is not an isolated matter that has nothing to do with the overall condition of stranded OFWs seeking immediate repatriation from the PH government in light of the crackdowns. ”

He said that they have received complaints of sexual abuse and exploitation from victims of crackdowns on undocumented OFWs in Saudi, Kuwait and Jordan. It is in these countries that stranded OFWs have launched “campout protests” calling on the PH government for “free, immediate and mass repatriation” in recent months.

Martinez said that recently more stranded OFWs from Bahrain, Syria, Libya and Malaysia have also sought Migrante’s help in seeking urgent repatriation by the PH government in the past few weeks.

“The Aquino administration and concerned government agencies should put the issue in this context and not simply sensationalize or use the issue to divert government accountability in the slow repatriation of stranded OFWs in light of the crackdowns,” Martinez said.

Martinez said that the Department of Foreign Affairs’ (DFA) move to investigate is long overdue.

Ang dali-dali naman pala nilang magpatawag ng mga ambassadors at mag-launch ng investigation. We have raised this concern to them during crackdowns in the Middle East in 1998, and again raised this to them when the Tent Cities started in March. Bakit ngayon lang sila kumikilos na para bang gulat na gulat sila at ngayon lang nila ito nalaman? This issue is directly linked to the issue of stranded OFWs seeking urgent repatriation and the DFA and Aquino administration is well aware of this.”

Hanggat hindi nareresolba at napapauwi ang libu-libong stranded, laging bulnerable ang mga OFW sa ganitong pang-aabuso,” Martinez said.

He said that only some 200 stranded OFWs have been repatriated by the PH government since June. Only 12 days remain before the resumption of the Saudi crackdowns on July 3 and at least 4,500 undocumented OFWs are still awaiting repatriation in the Riyadh and Jeddah tent cities. Some 12,000 OFWs are undocumented in Saudi alone.

“Failure to repatriate our OFWs before the deadline will be a bigger nightmare and the Aquino government knows this. If they cannot repatriate the stranded OFWs in time it will definitely result in more and graver human rights abuses against our stranded OFWs.”

Martinez called for an independent and comprehensive investigation on abuses against stranded OFWs, including the issue of sexual exploitation, maltreatment in shelters, “backdoor” malpractices and general government neglect of the rights and welfare of stranded OFWs in the Middle East. ###