DOJ wants action plan vs trafficking to strife-torn Syria
MANILA, Philippines – Worried by reports that Filipinos continue to travel to Syria for domestic work amid a deployment ban, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima ordered the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT) and other government agencies to create an action plan preventing the underground migration.
In the memorandum released Wednesday, November 12, De Lima insisted that hopeful Filipino migrant workers to Syria should instead be alerted of "the imminent risks that they may face due to the political instability in the said destination country."
"We hope to undertake this by familiarizing Filipino migrant workers with the modus operandi of the traffickers," De Lima said.
Syria is among 4 destination areas currently declared under Crisis Alert Level 4 by the foreign affairs department, meaning the Philippines has ordered a mandatory pullout of all Filipinos working there and a ban on deployment of new workers.
The continuous repatriation of Filipino migrant workers in Syria started in December 2012, but there are those who have opted to stay.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad allegedly launched chemical attacks exclusively on rebel-controlled areas of his country in 2013, prompting the West to mediate in talks for the dismantling of his chemical stockpile. (READ: #Syria: Commitment, double standard and refugees)
Gov't does not discriminate
Despite this volatile security situation, reports reached the Department of Justice (DOJ) that a number of Filipinos wanting to migrate for work to Syria have fallen prey to the hands of trafficking syndicates.
Filipino helpers were said to be trafficked to Syria using connecting flights in Dubai, Oman, and other Asian cities.
During the 2012 repatriation of OFWs from Syria, numerous repatriated workers were found to be undocumented.
Still, the government, through its labor agencies, has maintained it does not discriminate against migrant Filipino workers without proper travel documents in terms of the subsidized mandatory return.
However, benefits such as the P10,000 reintegration package to OFW-returnees are exclusively granted to OFWs with existing records of leaving the country for work.
The budget department recently announced the release of an additional P50 million ($1.11 million)* in funds to the foreign affairs department to help in the mandatory repatriation of OFWs in strife-torn Libya, Iraq, Gaza, and Syria.
Justice Undersecretary Jose Vicente Salazar lauded the DOJ's move, highlighting the preventive nature of the impending action plan.
The campaign, he said, "will reiterate the government's commitment to fight human trafficking by preventing our countrymen from being trafficked in the first place."
The DOJ memorandum was sent out to member-agencies of the IACAT, as well as the following agencies:
- Department of Interior and Local Government
- Commission on Filipinos Overseas
- Overseas Workers' Welfare Administration
- National Bureau of Investigation
- Philippine Commission of Transnational Crime
- Council for Women and Children
The IACAT is an inter-agency council of the government composed of the DOJ, the Department of Social Welfare and Development, the Department of Labor and Employment, the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration, the Philippine Commission For Women, the Philippine National Police, the Bureau of Immigration, and the Department of Foreign Affairs.
The council is chaired by De Lima. – Rappler.com
*US$1 = P44.88