ABU DHABI // Philippine officials and a migrant-rights group are urging potential emigrants seeking work in the Middle East and elsewhere to be sure of the validity of their working papers after 22 more people were stopped at Manila airport because of suspect documents. The workers, mostly women, were prevented from leaving Niñoy Aquino International Airport on Feb 3 after officials discovered the passengers held suspect documents, said John Leonard Monterona, the Middle East regional co-ordinator for the migrant-rights group, Migrante International. Some of them were about to leave for Abu Dhabi; others were headed for Qatar and Bahrain.
"Besides visit visas, there had been suggestions to fake documents so workers could seek employment abroad even if there is no assurance they will land jobs," Mr Monterona said. A similar incident occurred on Jan 30, when 50 Filipinos were stopped as they were preparing to fly to Abu Dhabi to work in a hotel here. In the latest incident, the job titles on work visas were different from those indicated on clearance forms issued by the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA), a Philippine television news report said.
Manila authorities are now trying to find the recruiters responsible for processing their papers, which appeared to have been tampered with. Nasser Munder, the Philippine labour attaché in Abu Dhabi, urged the workers to file complaints in Manila against their recruiter. But he noted there were "willing victims" who were aware of their illegal recruitment. Authorities are advising Filipinos to go through the POEA in Manila instead of using visit visas to get jobs in the UAE.
Adelio Cruz, consul at the Philippine embassy here, said potential emigrants should check with the POEA to be certain that their recruiting agency was licensed and had not had its operations suspended. "They should also practise due diligence to determine if the offer is real," he said. "The regulations of the POEA are for their protection, and they should not circumvent the law." Mr Cruz said Filipinos who went through the pre-departure orientation seminar of the POEA were well-informed of their rights and privileges, and were more prepared for overseas work.
In December, about 3,000 people were stranded on Kish Island, Iran, and 1,000 in Al Buraimi, Oman, after going on so-called visa runs. "The economic crisis is forcing Filipinos to devise ways to land jobs overseas," Mr Monterona said. "In their desperation, they would go to the extent of leaving the country with fake documents." Mr Monterona urged the Philippine government to be more sympathetic to the plight of workers who become stranded because in inadequate documentation. "They are victims here and should not be treated as criminals," he said.