Syrian employers demand US$ 10,000 for release of OFWs trapped in the Middle East state – DFA

July 17, 2012 10:04 pm 

MANILA, July 17 -– Syrian employers are demanding from the Philippine government up to US$ 10,000 in exchange for the release of Filipino workers who wanted to return to Manila to escape the raging violence in Syria, a Department of Foreign Affairs spokesman said Tuesday.

DFA spokesman Raul Hernandez said the amount represents the processing and deployment fees paid by Syrian employers when they hired the Filipinos to work for them as household workers.

The Philippine Embassy in Syria is working out the repatriation of more than 1,000 Filipinos but the huge amount of money being demanded by Syrian employers are delaying their return to the Philippines.

“Negotiation is very tedious because we have to talk to our employers who are asking US$ 4,000 to about US$ 10,000 now,” Hernandez told a news conference.

“We really need to negotiate and we have to tell them how much we can afford,” he said.

The International Committee of the Red Cross recently said the conflict in Syria should be treated as a full-blown civil war as hostilities have spilled over to other parts of the country.

Another challenge, Hernandez added, is the illegal recruitment of Filipinos in Syria, which is in defiance of a travel ban imposed by the Philippine government since the bloody uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad began last year.

“This is very worrisome,” Hernandez said as he renewed calls to Filipino job-seekers abroad to avoid Syria and not to fall for promises of huge salaries being dangled by unscrupulous recruiters.

“We are asking our people not to be duped, not to be fooled by illegal recruitment agencies who make money out of them and who are willing to risk their lives just to get some money out of their deployment,” he said.

Last March, the Syrian government announced it will no longer accept the deployment of new Filipino workers because of the labor ban imposed by Manila.

The DFA said Filipinos were excluded from the list of foreign nationals allowed to work in Syria as ordered by the Syrian Ministry of Interior on March 4, 2012.

Filipinos, according to the directive, must leave Syria when their contracts expire as it will no longer be renewed by their employer nor will it be honored by the Syrian government.

However, the illegal recruitment of Filipinos, particularly women, continued unabated, Hernandez lamented. Newly recruited Filipino workers have been arriving in Syria in batches, he said.

As the security condition deteriorates by the day, flights out of Syria are also getting scarce, Hernandez said.

“We have to talk to the airlines. There are lesser flights now to other point to the Middle East then to Manila,” he said, adding that Filipinos should take the government’s offer to repatriate them for free while exit routes are still open.

“We have been asking our people to be repatriated now, to go to our embassy to ask for assistance in their repatriation,” Hernandez said.

A total 1,806 Filipinos have been safely brought home from Syria since the Philippine government mounted a mandatory repatriation plan in December last year as violence engulfed the Arab nation, where thousands have been killed since an uprising against the government erupted last year.

Hernandez said the DFA will not stop until all Filipino workers in Syria are moved to safety.

“We will continue on with our repatriation to get our people out of harm’s way and keep them safe in our country,” he said.

Violence in Syria has continued despite an array of sanctions and condemnations by the United Nations, the United States and its Western and Arab allies.

The DFA has urged the families of Filipinos in Syria to provide the department with updated information regarding their relatives' current location and contact details in Syria so Philippine Embassy officials can help track and rescue them.

According to DFA estimates, around 10,000 Filipinos, mostly domestic helpers, are working in Syria. Majority of them are reluctant to leave their jobs in Syria citing lack of employment opportunities back home.

The Philippine government has offered alternative sources of income to workers who will be displaced by the conflict in Syria, but many have expressed desire to stay despite threats to their security.

The Philippines is among the world’s top labor-exporting nations with about 8.6 million skilled and unskilled workers scattered abroad. (PNA) FPV/MDC/utb


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