DUBAI // A member of the Philippines' Congress has called for a meeting between the Minister of Labour and his country's labour secretary to find ways of better protecting Filipinos working in the Emirates. "Our bilateral ties should be strengthened," said Rufus Rodriguez, who arrived in Dubai yesterday to investigate the illegal recruitment of Filipino workers and visit Filipinas in shelters in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
He called for an agreement between Manila and the Government that would see the UAE more urgently combat the problem of employers withholding the passports of workers from his country. "We will ask our public relations officers to assist our workers in filing a complaint against their sponsors who are holding their passports," he said. He also suggested the rules governing accreditation of UAE-based recruitment agencies be more stringent, to prevent cases of contract substitution, sex trafficking and illegal recruitment of Filipino migrant workers.
Mr Rodriguez is being accompanied on the trip by other members of the congress's committee on overseas workers affairs, including Luz Ilagan, Carlos Padilla and Christopher Lomibao. They visited a Dubai shelter that currently houses 119 women, mostly housemaids, who have left their jobs complaining of a lack of food and sleep, maltreatment, overwork or non-payment. "They've got three cases of sex trafficking. The women were supposed to be household helpers but they ended up in a prostitution house," Mr Rodriguez said.
Ms Ilagan, of the Gabriela Women's Party, said Filipinas were generally vulnerable to abuse and were willing to gamble when recruited to work overseas. The shelter occupants told the legislators that their passports were being kept by their employers, preventing them from returning to the Philippines. At least 15 of the women have been asked by their employers to refund recruiting costs. One housemaid, Marialyn Vinluan, 25, has been staying in the shelter for three months.
She alleged that she was slapped and kicked regularly, and beaten with an electrical wire. She said she was locked in a house in Ajman, and managed to escape only after someone left a door ajar. Benito Valeriano, the Philippine consul general in Dubai, said Ms Vinluan's employer, who is female, is currently in jail on assault charges and the case had been referred to the prosecutors. Mr Rodriguez advised Ms Vinluan to stay in the shelter until the court reached a verdict. This would enable her to receive back wages for one year and seven months, apart from compensatory damages.
The delegation also visited 147 women who are staying at a shelter in Abu Dhabi. The legislators are due to arrive in Amman today before proceeding to Jeddah on Wednesday and Thursday, and Riyadh on Friday to check on the conditions of the workers in those cities. @Email:firstname.lastname@example.org