Manila, Philippines – Despite the conflict in Syria, Filipinos are being smuggled there by illegal recruiters almost everyday under the guise of tourist visas, Vice President Jejomar C. Binay said.
Binay, chairman emeritus of the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT) and chairman of the Presidential Task Force Against Illegal Recruitment (PTFAIR), said the victims are brought by illegal recruiters to neighboring Asian countries where visa is not required.
“That’s what usually happens. They get their visa in other countries in going to Syria,” Binay said in a news conference at the NAIA Terminal 1 before leaving for Jeddah, Saudi Arabia last Tuesday evening to convey the country’s condolences to King Abdullah bin Abdul-Aziz al-Saud on the passing of Crown Prince Nayef bin Abdul-Aziz al-Saud of Saudi Arabia.
The situation is “alarming,” according to Binay who is also the Presidential Adviser on Overseas Filipino Workers’ (OFW) Concerns, considering the deployment ban to Syria that has been imposed by the Philippine government because of the escalating violence between pro and anti-government forces there.
According to Binay, 80 percent of the 17,000 OFWs in Syria who are mostly domestic helpers are undocumented. Thus, he reiterated his call for OFWs not to seek employment in Syria.
“I am asking our kababayans (countrymen), for their own safety, not to accept any employment offers in Syria. Your lives are not worth any amount of money that you may potentially earn there. I am appealing to all our kababayans who are planning to work abroad, to please go through the proper legal channels to avoid becoming victims of trafficking and illegal recruitment syndicates,” he said.
Binay said that the government has filed 29 illegal recruitment cases against agencies and persons recruiting Filipinos to work in Syria.
The Vice President said that 14 show-cause orders have been filed against Bureau of Immigration (BI) personnel for their alleged involvement in the illegal smuggling of Filipinos. (JC Bello Ruiz)