MANILA, Philippines — Kept for seven years in the toilet and “treated like an animal.”
This was how Philippine Embassy in Syria Chargé d’ affaires Vida Soraya Verzosa described the abuse of an abroad Filipino employee (OFW) who stayed in the embassy shelter and was later introduced house to the Philippines.
“Let me tell you the story of Lara. That’s not her really name but it’s just an alias for her. Lara really makes me very emotional,” Verzosa shared in an interview on INQside Look when requested about the plight of trafficked and abused OFWs in Syria.
(*7*) she added.
Aside from bodily abuse, Lara’s employers would additionally verbally maltreat her and prohibit her from contacting her household, in keeping with Verzosa.
“She was not paid her salaries during that period in time,” the envoy additionally mentioned.
Lara was capable of escape her abusive employers when a Syrian household “took pity on her” and introduced her to the Philippine embassy shelter.
“In the shelter, we gave her medical treatment—this was prior to my arrival [in December 2020]—And they also said that they elevated her (Lara) case to the criminal courts here in Syria,” Verzosa mentioned.
While different OFWs in the shelter didn’t have the “kind of horrific situation” confronted by Lara, many of them nonetheless suffered “a lot of maltreatment” from their employers, in keeping with Verzosa.
“Their employers would slap them, shout at them. They were not being fed properly. A lot of them would work more than 18 hours a day. They’re really overworked. They’re really underpaid and ultimately it’s a contract violation,” she added.
She mentioned these OFWs are made to signal contracts which might be in Arabic, a language that these staff don’t perceive.
“Really, these are the same things that are also prohibited human trafficking law of Syria,” Verzosa mentioned.
“I mean no disrespect to the citizens of the Syrian Arab Republic but just the reality that the workers go through if they come here illegally to a country where perhaps the culture is very different from us,” she added.
But how did these OFWs get to Syria? Verzosa mentioned they have been recruited in the Philippines by fraud and deception.
“It’s really very unfortunate that the Filipino workers who are here in our shelter really suffered a classic case of human trafficking” she mentioned.
According to her, these staff have been promised jobs in Dubai and a wage of $400 and above.
She mentioned recruiters promised these staff waitressing or cashier jobs but it surely turned out that they might find yourself as family staff in Syria.
“They were promised good working conditions and they were, of course, very much surprised that they were going through backdoor entries,” Verzosa mentioned.
“Like they would be put on a boat to Sabah. And then later on from Sabah to Colombo, Sri Lanka and then from Sri Lanka to Dubai or Abu Dhabi and then from Dubai to Syria,” she added.
Problem begins with recruitment
“The problem really starts with the recruitment side. A lot of them are promised jobs based on tourist visas,” she mentioned.
According to her, sure recruiters or traffickers are based mostly in far-flung provinces in the Philippines.
These recruiters or traffickers, she mentioned, would inform those that are trying for work overseas that they might have the ability to go away the Philippines instantly.
“But they would do this through illegal ways such as manufacturing fake birth certificates, to change their age, make them appear that they’re older. To make them go through an assumed identity, so false names in their passports,” Verzosa mentioned.
“When their passports are issued, they would also have fake travel documents. Fake contracts, fake proof that they can travel abroad. By the time that they reach the recruitment agencies in Syria, they would really be very shocked that they went through all that kind of fraud and deception to come here,” she added.
“When they seek help from the embassy, there are a lot of them who really go through horrific accounts of abuse and maltreatment,” Verzosa additional mentioned.
Aside from abuse, the envoy mentioned some Filipinos who’re in the shelter ended up “running away from their employers” not as a result of of maltreatment however as a result of they didn’t count on that their work could be family service staff.
“So it’s still on the basis of the fraud that they experienced,” she added.
However, Verzosa burdened that not all OFWs who’re in Syria are abused by their employers.
“There are also Syrian employers who are very reasonable who get to issue exit visas when the contract has already expired,” she mentioned.
“There are also a lot of employers who treat the Filipina worker like their own daughters. So they’re the ones to go to the embassy to renew the passports, pay for the proper iqamas (residence permit) and renewal of their working visas,” she added.
Nevertheless, Verzosa mentioned any human rights violation skilled by OFWs isn’t justified.
“The ones who are here in the shelter, I would say are the extreme examples,” she mentioned.
“Of course, this does not justify any human rights violation on both the Philippine side—in terms of the illegal recruiters and traffickers—and here in the receiving country in terms of the way that the girls here suffer maltreatment in the hands of their employers,” she added.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get entry to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & different 70+ titles, share as much as 5 devices, hearken to the information, obtain as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.