OFWs rights violation victims surge – group

THE number of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) victim of various human rights violations including labor-related cases are on steady increase this year averaging from three to 5 cases daily compared with one to 3 cases from January to June of last year, according to a migrant rights group Migrante-Middle East (M-ME).

M-ME regional coordinator John Leonard Monterona said his group is not surprised at all of the surge in the numbers of OFWs fallen prey victims to various basic human rights and labor rights violations since this have not been properly addressed by the Philippine government as the world’s top exporter of human resources.

“We could spell the difference of the surge. In previous years, there were mostly individual cases of right violations being recorded and monitored by our Migrante chapters in the Middle East. This year, from individual cases it shifted to a group of OFWs numbering to more than 10 up to 50 plus as victims of rights violations mainly labor-related,” Monterona explained.

Monterona cited the case of nineteen (19) distressed OFWs in Al Jouf, northern province of Saudi Arabia, who have been seeking assistance from the Philippine Embassy since November of last year ‘but until now are awaiting the resolution of a labor case they filed after their employer did not pay their salaries for 3 months, downgraded their salaries from 1,200 to 600 and 800, no residence permit or Iqama, and were forced to drive without Saudi driving license’.

Another 20 OFWs working for a Saudi establishment in the Eastern region complained of salary downgrading which according to them they signed a contract stipulating US$400 monthly salary but were only receiving US$150 (roughly equivalent to Php 6,300).

There is also the case of 41 OFW male cleaners working for Al Swayeh, a local establishment in Riyadh, who also complained of non-payment of salaries for 8 months. Some of them have already completed their 2-year contract but were not allowed to go home for vacation or leaving Saudi Arabia for ‘good’.

Monterona noted that the above-cited cases are just few of the cases his group are assisting and coordinating these cases with the PHL embassy and POLO-OWWA officials.

“In principle and based on several International instruments recognize by the majority of the members of the international community, both migrant-sending and receiving governments are duty-bound to provide protection to all migrant workers and members of their families.

But the burden lies heavily on migrant-sending governments like the Philippines to lobby and inspire the migrant-receiving and host governments to recognize and respect migrant workers’ rights and well-being,” Monterona added.

Monterona noted the Aquino III administration that recently completed 2 years of its 6-year term is only paying lip service after publicly issuing policy statements that it will provide on-site protection and welfare services to 10-M Filipinos working overseas.

‘If the Aquino govt. is aggressively peddling unemployed Filipinos abroad  just like previous administrations it must also be aggressive in providing on-site protection and welfare services to OFWs by seriously engaging host governments to respect and uphold migrants rights and welfare urging the latter to pass local social legislations and by ratifying international instruments such as the UN Convention on the Protection of All Migrants and members of their families, and the ILO Domestic Workers Convention,” Monterona said.

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