Monday, February 19, 2018

Beware of illegal recruiters in Macau

The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration warns both Filipino workers and tourists looking for work in Macau to be cautious in accepting offers from other Filipinos for supposed employment in mainland China.

The Department of Foreign Affairs has endorsed to the POEA the case of a Filipina household service worker in Macau who was allegedly recruited by a Filipina named Pia Ciabacal. According to the DFA, the OFW went to Macau as tourist and was able to land a job as household service worker. Ciabacal allegedly offered her a job in Beijing for the same position with a monthly salary of RMB7,500 per month.

The domestic worker was able to enter and work in China but the employer refused to pay her any salary for her services. They even confiscated her passport and cellular phone. Pia Ciabacal and other Filipinos in Macau allegedly work as agent for a certain Chinese recruiter known only as “Fancy”.

Fancy allegedly owns an establishment called MMC Enterprises located at Beleno Shop, Red Market in Macau. The Beleno shop acts as a front for MMC which clandestinely operates as a recruitment agency targeting unsuspecting Filipinos and Indonesians. The POEA has also received reports of Filipino household service workers (HSWs) in Hong Kong, Singapore and Cyprus who were lured into transferring to another country like Dubai, Mongolia, Turkey and Russia.

The OFWs later found out the conditions of employment are not what one had in mind, or worse, the offered job is non-existent. The recruiters were mostly foreign nationals who have Filipino partners in their illegal activities.

NEWS ADVISORY 15 January 2018 “Tourist-to-refugee” illegal recruitment scheme bared

 The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration has advised Filipino workers to avoid offers of employment in Japan using “tourist-to-refugee” recruitment scheme.

 The Office of the Undersecretary of Migrant Workers Affairs (OUMWA) of the Department of Foreign Affairs has requested the POEA to investigate a possible case of illegal recruitment or trafficking in persons involving a syndicate operating in Saitama Prefecture.

The OUMWA reported that a certain “Mara” through social media entices job applicants to enter Japan using tourist visa and instruct them to apply for refugee visa at the Immigration Bureau of Japan for employment purposes.
The report also said a broker based in Manila prepares fake documents such as certificate of employment and bank statement for the applicant’s visa application. The syndicate allegedly charges Php55,000.00 to Php95,000.00 per applicant for the supposed services.

The POEA said the recruitment scheme is unlawful and warned applicants to deal only with recruiters with valid license from the government. Applicants may look for licensed recruitment agencies and approved job orders at the POEA website’s verification system or the POEA app using smart phones.

Over 5000 Indians Stranded As Kuwait’s Largest Construction Firm Falls

Migrant workers have been stuck in the Gulf country for over 18 months, without food, water or adequate shelter
 “For the last 18 months, Embassy officials and ministers are coming and going. We hear the same words. We will be rescued soon, help is on the way, no need to worry… But now we are scared that we will die here without seeing our family.”
These were the words of a group of Indian workers who were left in the lurch by Kharafi National Company, one of the largest construction companies in Kuwait, which has shut down its operations partially, citing economic conditions due to oil price dip.
And as a result, around 1800 Indian workers, mainly from south Indian states, who have resigned from the company, are stranded without proper food, drinking water, accommodation, money and moreover travel documents.
Additionally, around 3614 Indian workers, mainly blue-collar workers, have filed complaints to get their unpaid salary and waiting in hope for the last few months.
Stranded Indians await help, MoS VK Singh addresses stranded migrants in Kuwait
Talking to The Lede, a senior official from the Indian Embassy in Kuwait, said that the amount is quite high and there is not much hope of company paying up. “We have calculated the pending salary for the workers as 8 million Kuwaiti Dinar (approximately Rs 169.38 crore). We are trying our best to get it for the workers,” the Embassy official told The Lede.
Last week, VK Singh, Minister of State for External Affairs, visited Kuwait and held talks with Kuwaiti ministers on resolving the workers’ issue. A few months ago, MJ Akbar, another Indian Minister of State for External Affairs, had also visited Kuwait and held talks to resolve the issue.
“After the repeated ministers’ visits from the Indian government, it seems that the Kuwait government is positive in resolving the issue,” the Embassy official added.
Meanwhile, the resigned and stranded workers said that it is getting harder by the day. “I came here with great hope. Worked for more than eight years. Now, the company is not paying us for the last one year. They are saying that they don’t have money. Top level management is ‘missing’ and the mid-level guys tell us that they are helpless,” Jose P, a worker from Kerala, told The Lede. “I have a family to take care of. My boy’s engineering education is stuck due to non-payment of fees. We are totally stuck here,” Jose added.
Jose cannot leave Kuwait because his passport is held back by the company. And even if he gets it back, he has to pay around (Rs 80,000) as fine for overstaying with an expired resident card. “The company failed to renew our resident cards and now, we are suffering for that. The salary is pending. Even if we get it, we have to pay back the loans we took to survive,” Jose added.
In fact, it is illegal for employers to hold the passports of employees, and this is clearly stated in ministry resolution number 143/A/2010 in Article 1: “It is prohibited for private sector employers and oil sector employers to hold travel documents of their employees.”
But in Kuwait, which follows the Kafala system – the bonded labour system – a majority of the workers have to surrender their passport at the time of arrival itself.
An RTI query filed by The Lede, has got a response from the Indian embassy in Kuwait – revealing that it has received 2287 complaints from the Indian workers. “Out of the total number of complaints received as indicated above, around 85 per cent of them were of non-receipt of salary and 95 per cent of them (out of the total complaints) were about employer holding back passport of workers,” stated the RTI 

India, Kuwait Should Be Ashamed: International Trade Union Chief

In an exclusive interview to The Lede, the chief of the International Trade Union Confederation, Sharan Burrow slammed both governments
Responding exclusively to The Lede’s story on over 5000 Indian migrant workers stranded in Kuwait for the last 18 months without any pay, proper food and shelter, Sharan Burrow, chief of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITCU) said that both the governments of India and Kuwait should be ashamed.
“The government of India and Kuwait should be both ashamed for allowing human beings to be stranded without hope,” she said. “The Kuwaiti government should pay the wages and expedite flights home. They can take responsibility for suing the company,” she added.
Over 5000 Indian blue-collar workers at Kharafi National Company, including 3614 who are yet to receive their unpaid salary amounting to Rs 169 crore have been stuck in Kuwait for the last 18 months without any proper food, shelter and money for even for their daily needs.
End Kafala
According to the ITUC chief, Qatar has agreed to end the Kafala system and implement proper compliance systems. “All Gulf states must follow Qatar,” Burrow added.
Kafala is a bonded-labour system followed in majority of the Arab countries, especially in six Gulf countries. Majority of the workers are in a grave situation and some 45 workers are on a strike in the company headquarters itself demanding unpaid salary.
“We are not even able to call our family in India. We are getting only a little food for survival. Sometimes, even drinking water is a problem. Over the last 18 months, everyone has taken hand loans from friends and known ones. Telephone cards cost us a lot. So, the frequency of calling home has come down to once in 20 days,” a group of workers told The Lede.
Ownership Dispute
According to a highly placed source in Kuwait, an ownership dispute over the Kharafi National Construction company, the largest construction company in Kuwait, has led to partial closure of operations and consequently, migrant workers being stranded.
Businessman Nasser Al-Kharafi and Kuwait Parliament Speaker Jassem Al-Kharafi, both brothers were in charge of the company. After both passed away, their sister Faiza Mohammed Al-Kharafi took charge of the company. Faiza is married to Ali Mohammed Thanian Al-Ghanim, a member of the biggest business family in the Middle East, the Al-Ghanim Industries.
Al-Ghanim is one of the largest privately owned companies in the Persian Gulf region, with presence predominantly in Kuwait. A multinational company with operations in 40 countries, Al-Ghanim Industries is a multibillion-dollar conglomerate with more than 30 businesses.
Faiza and Al-Ghanim’s son Marzouq Al-Ghanim is the current Speaker of the Kuwait Parliament. Meanwhile, Loay Jassem Mohammed Al-Kharafi, son of the late Speaker Jassem Al-Kharafi, became the CEO of the company. Loay has married into the royal family of Kuwait. A power tussle between Marzouq Al-Ghanim and Loay Jassem Mohammed Al-Kharafi is the prime reason behind the unresolved situation affecting thousands of workers.
“Will the government entities act strongly if royals and sheikhs are in the company management? They won’t. This is the reason behind why the issue got prolonged,” the source said.
During the last few months, two Ministers of State with the Indian External Affairs Ministry had visited the Kuwaiti government officials and workers to resolve the issues.
Last week, MoS External Affairs General VK Singh made a visit and has assured workers that the issue would be resolved soon.
Fresh Offer
Meanwhile, the company has issued a notice to workers stating that employees who would like to leave the country without indemnity can register their names in the camp office and that the company would arrange ticket and pay penalty. Workers though, are reluctant to accept the offer.
“What about our unpaid salary. Why did we stay back for these many months? They want to send us empty-handed. We are not going to accept this. We want the money for what we worked,” workers told The Lede.
Diplomatic Intervention 
A senior official at the Indian Embassy in Kuwait said that the diplomatic intervention seen in this issue was unprecedented among Gulf countries.
“However, we are not very hopeful about workers getting their unpaid salary. But at the same time, we are seeing some positive intervention from Kuwait Human Rights Commission. Let’s hope for the best,” the official said, adding that they are being very much cautious in stopping recruitment to the company so that fresh workers do not come and land in trouble.
“We have taken some extra steps to stop recruitment to the company. Requests come in different names. But when we check the papers thoroughly, we can find the people behind the ‘new’ company are the same ones from Kharafi. We are now even checking signatures to protect workers,” the official added.
Kuwait is also struggling financially following the dip in oil price since 2014. Kuwait’s general budget has registered a USD 6.43 billion deficit in the first half of the financial year 2017-2018.
Meanwhile, similar workers’ issues are reported in Saudi Arabia too. According to Shaheen Sayyed, a social worker in Kuwait, around 170 Indian workers are stranded without a way to exit from Saudi.
In a letter to the Indian embassy in Riyadh, Shaheen said 83 employees had received a favourable verdict from the labour court which had also ordered the employer to make their full and final settlement and sent them to India. “The workers are physically and mentally disturbed and two of them have expired,” she informed the Embassy.
The Indian Embassy in Riyadh has also responded to the letter written by Sayyed asking for contact numbers of the aggrieved workers ‘to enable us to talk to them and help them out.’ “Needless to say that the Embassy/Consulate will extend all possible help to our distressed citizens,” the Embassy said.

DFA: No Pinoys hurt in Mexico quake

Posted at Feb 17 2018 04:49 PM
People react after an earthquake shook buildings in Mexico City, February 16, 2018. Edgard Garrido, Reuters
MANILA – No Filipinos were hurt in the powerful earthquake that shook the state of Oaxaca in Mexico on Friday.
The Philippine Embassy in Mexico said it continues to monitor the situation and check with Filipino community members.
Agence France-Presse said two towns near the epicenter reported damage and state authorities said they had opened emergency shelters.
The shaking lasted from 30 seconds up to a minute, and several aftershocks were recorded and felt in some cases. 

Kin seeks justice for 'abused' OFW who died 2 weeks after return from Kuwait

Posted at Feb 18 2018 05:55 PM
Family members mourn for an OFW allegedly abused by her employers in Kuwait. ABS-CBN News
MANILA - The family of an OFW who allegedly suffered abuse in the hands of her employers in Kuwait called for justice on Sunday after she died from an illness just 2 weeks after returning home. 
Josie Lloren had been working in the Gulf state since 2015 to support her 3 children in Davao City. In November 2017, however, she told her sister that she was being maltreated by her employer's wife and had to find another job, her family told ABS-CBN News. 
They said that was the last time they talked with Lloren before she returned gravely ill to the Philippines in January 26 and was rushed to a hospital. She died there last February 9. 
Lloren succumbed to cardio respiratory arrest secondary to cerebro vascular disease, according to her death certificate. 
"Hindi namin alam talaga kung ano 'yung nangyari doon sa Kuwait. Natanggap naman [namin] na namatay siya; ang hindi namin matanggap na hindi namin alam kung anong dahilan," Lloren's brother, Joel Perez, Sr. told ABS-CBN News. 
(We don't know what happened in Kuwait. We've accepted her death, but we cannot accept that we don't know the reason.) 
"Mensahe ko na lang sa ating mahal na Presidente Rodrigo Duterte na sana mabigyan ng hustisya ang aming kapatid," he added. 
(My only message to our President Rodrigo Duterte is that may our sister be given justice.) 
Duterte had slammed Kuwait after another Filipina worker, Joanna Demafelis, was found dead in a freezer. He alleged that Arab employers routinely rape their Filipina workers, force them to work 21 hours a day and feed them scraps. 
He has also banned the deployment of new workers to Kuwait and ordered airlines to fly home any of the 252,000 Filipinos working there who wish to return.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Recruitment agencies in Kuwait fear OFW remittances to go down amid deployment ban

The Philippine Association of Agencies to Kuwait (PHILAAK) fears that remittances from Filipino workers in the Middle-Eastern country would go down further amid the total deployment ban imposed by the government.
"Pangamba ng PHILAAK na kung magtatagal ang ban ng bagong deployment at kung marami pa ang uuwi na OFW mula Kuwait ngayong 2018, maaaring mas malaki pa sa $50 million ang ibababa ng OFW remittances mula Kuwait," the recruiters association said in a statement on Friday.
"Malaking bagay iyan sa mga naghihirap na pamilyang Pilipino at ekonomiya ng bansa. Masakit iyan para sa mga pamilyang umaasa lamang sa mga padala ng OFW sa Kuwait," it said.
Citing a data from the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), PHILAAK said that remittances from Filipino workers in Kuwait declined by $50.23 million or 5.9 percrnt in 2017 at $806.484 million from $856.715 million in 2016.
"Sa tingin ng PHILAAK, ang 5.9 percent o $50.23 million dollars na ibinaba ng halaga ng mga padala mula Kuwait ay epekto paghina ng ekonomiya ng Kuwait dahil sa pagbagsak ng presyo ng langis sa world market mula sa kataasan nitong $100 dollars per barrel noong 2015," the group said.
"Ngunit ayon sa mga ekonomista, makakabawi ang ekonomiya ng Kuwait sa 2018," it said.
On Monday, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III ordered a total ban in the deployment of Filipino workers to Kuwait, days after the body of a Filipina was found in a freezer in an abandoned apartment unit. 
Prior to the total ban, the government has suspended the deployment of OFWs to Kuwait following reports of abuses, some of them resulting in deaths.
"Kung mayroon man, kaunti lang ang naging epekto ng  naging gusot sa pagitan ng Kuwait at Pilipinas dahil sa pagaabuso at pagkamatay ng pitong Pilipino roon. January 2018 na kasi nang suspindihin ng DOLE ang bagong deployment ng OFW papuntang Kuwait," it added.
An estimated 250,000 Filipinos are working in Kuwait, 75 percent of which are household service workers.
"Kaya naman, sana maresolba agad ng mga pamahalaan ng Pilipinas at Kuwait ang kasalukuyang suliranin. Umaasa ang PHILAAK na magbubunga nang mabuti at sa lalong madaling panahon, ang mga solusyon nina President Rodrigo Roa Duterte, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III, Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano, at Special Envoy Eduardo Manalo," PHILAAK said.
Duterte has asked Filipino workers in Kuwait who are distressed or wish to return home to take advantage of the free flights that will be afforded them in 72 hours.
Malaca├▒ang, meanwhile, has said that Filipinos already working in Kuwait may stay if they have no complaints about their employers. — RSJ, GMA News
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