x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Agencies shut down over fake driving jobs racket

The Philippine government has shut down seven recruitment agencies that left scores of Filipino bus drivers stranded after offering them non-existent jobs in the UAE.

DUBAI // The Philippine government has shut down seven recruitment agencies that left scores of Filipino bus drivers stranded after offering them non-existent jobs in the UAE. Hans Cacdac, the acting administrator of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA), revoked the licences of CYM International Services and six other agencies for violating labour deployment laws.

A further five had their licences suspended for between six and 26 months, and were fined between 60,000 Philippine pesos (Dh4,600) and 260,000 pesos. One, Goldmine International Recruitment Agency, was cleared of all charges. The agencies were accused of hiring a total of 137 drivers for non-existent jobs, and extracting upfront payments, before leaving the men stranded and jobless in an Ajman labour camp. Many drivers had taken out loans with a company called RJ Lacaba in their homeland to fund their passage to the UAE.

Virginia Calvez, the labour attaché in Dubai, said the revocation order was made after a team of three lawyers visited the Emirates in July to investigate. She said without licences, the agencies would be barred from engaging in any overseas recruitment. Ms Calvez, who welcomed the order, said CYM had "farmed out" 4,000 fictitious vacancies for bus drivers to 11 different recruitment agencies. CYM told the drivers they would each earn Dh5,200 (US$1,400) a month and illegally extracted a 150,000 peso "placement fee" before issuing them with fake employment visas, it was claimed.

"The drivers will get refunds for whatever they have paid or given the recruiter or RJ Lacaba lending agency," she said. Mr Cacdac added that the refunds would be taken from bonds that had been deposited with each agency. However, Ms Calvez noted that some of the drivers had signed papers whereby they give up their right to a refund. The drivers arrived in groups, between January 27 and March 6, only to find the jobs did not exist and their visas were forgeries.

Without income, they had to stay at a labour camp in Ajman. They became so desperate that at one point they were reduced to scavenging for food scraps and items to sell from a local rubbish dump. The Philippines repatriated 94 of the men between April and July, while 41 others eventually found jobs in the UAE. Most of them secured work with one of four local firms, while one was taken on in Abu Dhabi as a security guard, and another as a driver in Dubai.

rruiz@thenational.ae