Friday, November 6, 2009

2 Filipino seafarers hurt in ship fire in United Arab Emirates

Two Filipino seamen were injured after their ship caught fire five miles off Khor Fakkan port in Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) last Wednesday.

UAE-based Khaleej Times reported Friday the two Filipinos were among four crewmen injured in the incident.

A Greek crewman died while an engineer from Ghana and a Sri Lankan national were also injured in the incident, the report said.

The Khaleej Times report quoted a Sharjah police officer as saying fire broke out in the engine of the Liberian-flagged ship, which was being used as a bunker to refuel other ships.

“Apart from the Greek, four others suffered serious burns," the officer said.

He added the Greek man likely died after inhaling smoke that billowed out into the sky after the engine caught fire.

The four other crew members were immediately taken to a Fujairah hospital with one of the survivors discharged the same day.

Investigators are working with Sharjah Ports Authorities to find out what caused the fire. The injured crew members will be questioned after they recover. - GMANews.TV

Migrants 'silenced' in Athens global forum on migration - group

Organizers of the third annual international meeting on global migration are being criticized for allegedly silencing the sector that they were supposed to serve.

An advocacy group claimed that the Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD) recently held in Athens, had “deliberately sought to alienate the role of migrants in the discussion process."

“(It) has demonstrated a clear lack of transparency and accountability where many non-binding agreements are made in closed-door meetings outside the scrutiny of rights-based observers," the Coordination of Action Research on AIDS and Mobility Asia (CARAM) said in a statement.

While the group acknowledges the GFMD as the largest platform for international dialogue on issues related to migration, CARAM said the annual meeting had failed to address the real problems of migrants.

“The GFMD will never become a platform of positive change in the field of migration until it seeks to engage directly with migrants and their communities and halt their continued promotion of failed economic policies," CARAM said.

The group is opposed to the promotion of migration as a means to generate remittances and keep the economies of developing countries afloat.

Citing a recent study by the United Nations Development Programme on the Human Development Index, CARAM said that in many cases, the quality of education, health, and overall standard of living in developing countries still decreased despite the record-level remittances generated by these nations.

The forum met similar criticisms when it was held in Manila in October 2008. Migrant groups said the GFMD was nothing more than a shoptalk event meant for labor-sending nations to market migrants in other countries.

But organizers of the event in Manila said the forum was a success in ensuring the welfare of migrants especially at the onset of the financial crisis.

CARAM urged participants of the GFMD to undertake several measures to make it more relevant for migrants. It said countries participating in the GFMD should sign and ratify the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of all Migrant Workers and Members of their Families.

The group likewise urged GFMD organizers to improve transparency and accountability in the dialogue process.

“This must include the participation of grassroots organisations to address the wider social issues related to migration including addressing gender specific vulnerabilities," CARAM said, adding that some non-binding agreements should not be made behind closed doors.

CARAM also said that countries hosting female migrant workers must adhere to the latter's existing rights as laid out in the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. - GMANews.TV

BatangueƱa gets 4 mos. in HK for forged passport stamps

A Filipino woman visiting Hong Kong for the first time would be staying in the Chinese province’s jail for four months after immigration authorities found out she had fake passport entry/exit stamps, the Philippine Consulate there reported Thursday.

The tourist, who hails from Batangas province, was returning to the Philippines with her family last Oct. 28 when Hong Kong airport authorities discovered that her immigration stamp showed she had been to the former British colony a couple of times before.

According to the Philippine Consulate in Hong Kong, the Filipina was brought to Shatin Magistrates’ Court two days later and pleaded guilty to the offense of possession of a false instrument. She was sentenced to four months imprisonment.

"The Consulate has made a recommendation to authorities in Manila for the investigation of the case," the office of Vice Consul Val Roque said in a statement.

Filipino tourists and workers are often lured by unscrupulous agencies to obtain forged entry/exit immigration stamps in order to bolster his/her chances at getting a visa from certain embassies in Manila.

As a strategy, long-time Filipino workers in Hong Kong get a better chance of getting work in Canada after showing good immigration status in the Chinese province. Often, Filipino domestic helpers in Hong Kong apply for caregiver jobs in Canada after two years of service.

Mere possession of a false instrument, however, is an offence under Section 75 of Hong Kong’s Crimes Ordinance and carries with it a maximum penalty of 3 years’ imprisonment.

"Filipinos should be aware that these embassies also report fraudulent visa application documents to the National Bureau of Investigation," the consulate added.

There are more than 130,000 Filipinos in Hong Kong; most of whom are working as domestic helpers in the city’s urban districts. - GMANews.TV

Crisis restricted migrant workers' movement - UN

Besides bringing discrimination and threats of job losses, the global crisis has also restricted the movement of migrant workers the world over, a United Nations official said.

This has reduced migrant workers’ opportunities, causing a slowdown in remittance flows, said Carlos Lopes, executive director of the UN Institute for Training and Research.

“Many countries which depend upon these flows will be adversely affected not only economically, but also socially," Lopes said at the opening of the 3rd Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD) in Greece on Thursday.

The 2nd GFMD was held in Manila in October last year.

Lopes, who also chairs the Global Migration Group, said that while remittance was relatively resilient, the World Bank forecasts that flows to all developing regions will decline between seven and ten percent in 2009.

“Too often this will negatively affect development outcomes, for example in the area of children’s and especially girls’ education and health," he added.

But Filipino economists project that the remittances from more than 8.7 million Filipinos living and working abroad would climb to $17 billion despite the crisis.

From January to July this year, remittances have risen 3.8 percent to nearly $10 billion, boosting consumption spending, which comprise 70 to 80 percent of the economy.

Lopes also said that many states have adopted restrictive requirements for foreigners obtaining entry, legal residence, and work permits.

“Additional restrictions can also reinforce the impression that migration is a questionable, criminal phenomenon, thereby contributing to anti-migrant, xenophobic reactions in destination countries," he said.

From October 2008 to March 2009 the Labor department noted that some 60,000 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) returned home, jobless.

Earlier, Emmanuel Leyco, a professor at the Asian Institute of Management (AIM), said the US recession would create a domino effect all over the globe and cause millions of OFWs to lose their jobs.

“In a global recession, immigrants are the first to go," Leyco told GMANews.TV.

Leyco said newly-deployed OFWs would be the hardest-hit by an economic meltdown because most businesses implement a “last in, first out" policy in their human resources management.

He said foreign workers are also often seen as low-priority in employment retention.

“When factories or offices are closing (not even) seniority (counts)," he said.

Lopes echoed this observation in his opening remarks at the GFMD, adding that the continued layoffs of migrant workers slow down the process of recovery.

“From a development perspective, such measures risk slowing down the resumption of growth," he said.

The UN official said that States must be vigilant against xenophobic sentiments and discriminatory practices prompted by the economic crisis.

The recently released 2009 UN Human Development Report, entitled Overcoming barriers: Human mobility and development, called for wide-ranging reforms to maximize the gains from migration and to protect the rights of migrants – now estimated to be one out of every seven persons in the world, Lopes added. - GMANews.TV

Groups want an OFW as senatorial candidate

JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia – Several Filipino groups in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia have called on political parties to field at least one overseas Filipino worker (OFW) in the senatorial ticket for the 2010 elections.

“It’s high time that they consider the OFWs to have a representation in the Senate," said Vic Aguila, chairman of KASAPI Congress, an umbrella organization of Filipino migrant groups in Saudi Arabia.

In an open letter to the political parties, KASAPI said it was important to have OFW representation in the Senate to recognize their importance in the decision-making process in the country.

Money coming from OFWs is considered the lifeblood of the Philippine economy. A record-breaking $16.4 billion was remitted by OFWs in 2008.

Another group, Ang Ating Gabay OFW, said an OFW senator would help push for pro-migrant worker legislation that have otherwise gathered dust in Congress.

“Ever since we do not have any representative in the Senate. Whatever passes in the Lower House must have a follow-up in the Senate," said Jauhari Usman, president of Ang Ating Gabay OFW and former chairman of KASAPI.

In Riyadh, former chairman of United OFW Frank Naval said the group’s current chairman Eli Mua has sent an email to the Office of the President requesting the inclusion of an OFW in the Senate slate of the ruling party.

“This is the time for us (OFWs) to be represented and we are hoping that they would listen to our clamor," said Naval.

In the House of Representatives, OFWs have received a recent blow when the country’s poll body delisted Migrante in the party-list elections for 2010.

The Comelec is still deliberating on the requests for accreditation of more than 200 groups wishing to participate in the May 2010 party-list elections.

Since the party-list system began in 1998, no OFW group has succeeded in winning a seat in the House of Representatives. - GMANews.TV

89 OFWs in KSA seek repatriation

More A total of 89 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) have called on the Philippine government to repatriate them from Saudi Arabia after their employer allegedly committed labor malpractices.

According to the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), the OFWs stopped working last October 12 to protest their employer’s alleged labor malpractices that included unauthorized salary reduction, illegal salary deduction, and delayed payment of salaries.

The DFA has called on the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) in Riyadh to discuss with the OFWs’ employer, Annasban Group of Companies, a local outsourcing company, to return home even after completing their contracts.

“POLO-Riyadh has asked for the early repatriation of those Filipino workers who wish to return to Manila under their employer’s expense. Those who would opt to stay, however, may continue their work under improved working conditions," the DFA said in a statement Tuesday.

This is not the first time Annasban figured in labor malpractice complaints.

Last year, Migrante International, an OFW-advocacy group, said at least 70 Filipina health workers have been virtually held hostage by Annasban.

The group said the agency is not allowing the Filipinas to leave until their replacements arrive. In protest, the Filipino employees have refused to work. - GMANews.TV

RP to repatriate OFW convicted in Saudi for drug offense

More The Philippine government is now working for the repatriation of an overseas Filipino worker who finished serving his prison term for a drug-related offense in Saudi Arabia.

Citing a report from the Philippine Embassy in Riyadh, the Department of Foreign Affairs said Jose Jonathan Botor Bigas had finished serving his term in August 2008.

"Mr. Bigas was scheduled to be repatriated last month but due to administrative procedures between the Saudi court and the Governor’s Office, he remains incarcerated at the Dammam Reformatory Jail," the DFA said in an article posted on its Web site.

The DFA said Philippine Embassy officials asked concerned Saudi authorities to inquire into this matter.

Also, the Philippine Embassy has requested the DFA to disburse funds for Bigas’ repatriation "for humanitarian consideration," the department said. - GMANews.TV
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