Sunday, April 29, 2007

Blas Ople Policy Center Seeks Embassy In Syria

Fellow blogger, Susan "Toots" Ople sent me this email regarding the plight of our countrymen in Syria.

News Release
April 29, 2007

Blas Ople Policy Center seeks embassy in Syria

The Blas F. Ople Policy Center, a non-stock, non-profit organization which extends assistance to distressed overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), called on the government to send a humanitarian team to look into the plight of Filipino domestic helpers in Syria and consider opening an embassy in the said country.

Susan Ople, president of the Ople Center, issued this appeal in light of text messages and urgent appeals from victims of human trafficking trapped in Syria.

“We recommend that the government open an embassy in Syria. Our recommendation is based on the growing number of Filipino workers there, many of who are at the mercy of foreign agents and their employers,” she said, adding that the government has embassies in countries with smaller OFW communities.

Requests for help were conveyed by two OFWs who were able to return to the country through joint efforts by the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Blas F. Ople Policy Center. The two workers were also assisted by the Overseas Workers’ Welfare Administration. Initial information about the plight of the two distressed workers came from Dindo Amparo, who heads the Middle East bureau of The Filipino Channel. Amparo sent an e-mail to the Blas Ople Center with the mobile phone number of the OFW concerned.

According to Ople, the sending of a humanitarian team is also urgently needed because most of the Filipinos in Syria were being exploited due to their illegal status. Filipino workers in Syria are estimated at 6,000, most of who were victims of human trafficking rings in the Middle East.

The Center was also approached by relatives of Shiela Donguines, an OFW who thought she would be employed in Jordan. But Shiela ended up in Syria where she is being forced to work from 5 in the morning to 11 at night by her employer.

Alicia Santos, one of the OFWs who were able to return home, complained about the inhumane treatment she received from her Syrian employer who did not allow her to eat on time and refused to pay her a monthly salary.

Rhadilyn Bucad, on the other hand, revealed that her illegal recruiter came to her home in Tarlac and promised her a good-paying job in Syria. She was not asked by the recruiter to pay a placement fee. When in Syria, she was made to work long hours without salary by her employers who also maltreated her.

Former labor undersecretary Ople said foreign agents in Lebanon, Syria, Kuwait and other Gulf countries have been able to penetrate the countryside through local “brokers” or “recruiters” who scout around for willing victims.

“These so-called headhunters are paid by conduits of foreign agents for every Filipino domestic helper that they can send abroad. This is why the unsuspecting OFW is able to leave without having to pay a placement fee. The foreign agents make money from employers in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and other neighboring countries who are eager to have a maid of their own,” the Ople Center explained.

The daughter of the late Foreign Affairs Secretary Blas F. Ople urged interested job applicants to deal only with licensed recruitment agencies that are recognized by the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA).

“If anyone you know approaches you with an offer for a job in Syria, walk away or better yet, report him or her to the police. There are no suitable jobs to be had in Syria and even if there were, I wouldn’t recommend it as an employment destination especially for household workers, “ Ople stressed.