They were on their way to Lebanon and Jordan for work but officials say Filipinas seeking employment overseas must use proper channels to ensure their protection.
Filipinas on UAE tourist visas barred from leaving for Dubai
ABU DHABI // Filipinas who plan to work as domestic staff overseas but evade formal recruitment channels deny themselves a decent job and salary, a Manila official warns.
"This sad situation forces a Filipina domestic worker to submit herself to indecent, illegal or inhumane working conditions for promises of obtaining legal residency," said Hans Cacdac, the head of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (Poea) in Manila.
"The results are physical, sexual, mental or psychological abuse and exploitation."
He spoke after airport immigration officials barred 17 undocumented workers disguised as tourists from leaving for Dubai on June 11 and 12.
"Of those, 11 admitted they were to be flown to Lebanon and the rest to Jordan for work.
Mr Cacdac welcomed efforts by the immigration bureau to prevent Filipinas on UAE tourist visas from being trafficked elsewhere by illegal recruiters.
"There is still a pending deployment ban on newly hired workers to Lebanon," Mr Cacdac said.
"In the next two weeks we will start the process of registration of new foreign recruiters in Jordan and documenting overseas Filipino workers."
Juliet Lasalita, the manager of a recruitment agency in Al Ain, said it was common for Filipinos to travel to Dubai on tourist visas, then fly on to countries where the Philippines bans its citizens from working.
"For years, Dubai has served as a transit point for undocumented workers to Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Lebanon and Jordan," Ms Lasalita said.
"But our government has minimised the problem with the tougher screening procedures for tourists at the airport."
Since August 2010, airport immigration officials have been ordered to be on the lookout for anyone they suspect is going to work abroad without proper papers, and to stop them from leaving.
The formal recruitment process is overseen by the Poea, which licenses agencies to recruit Filipinos for overseas employment.
"The workers are fully protected and covered by compulsory insurance," Mr Cacdac said.
Workers also benefit from the services of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration, Philippine Health Insurance Corporation and the Home Development Mutual Fund, or Pag-Ibig Fund.
"There is no better way than the legal way and the right way is through the Poea," he said.
"A worker hired through a licensed recruiter will receive a US$400 (Dh1,469) monthly entry-level salary from a well-intentioned registered employer, is at least 23 years of age and has not paid a placement fee.
"We will punish both the Philippine and foreign recruiters if these guarantees are not met."
Licensed recruiters with a record of breaking the rules could face a temporary suspension, a revocation of their licence, and be banned from engaging in overseas recruitment.