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Thursday, May 17, 2012
PROMISE the good life ahead, and more often than not, families would push their own children to leave their war-torn community or impoverished area to find a more exciting, brighter and better opportunity in the foreign shores or in the urban centres.
They will borrow money for transportation. Maybe pawn their hard earned possessions, even sell their livestock which helps them farm and has become a large part of their everyday living. They promise to pay off the debt immediately when everything has settled in and income is better off. It would be a good life ahead. It would be much better than what they have now.
Fe, 17 years old and a native from North Cotabato, leaves home to work as a domestic helper in Lebanon. She looks 15 years old and while it was her first time to fly, she was also excited on the new environment where she would work.
How did you manage to have your papers processed despite your being a minor, I asked. “Nang Elsa, our recruiter knows someone at the agencies who helped us with our papers,” she said, quickly adding that it was her family who assured her that everything would be alright. “Besides, it is more risky in our town,” she added.
For a sum of P10,000 monthly salary, Fe and other young people like her are facing the odds to work outside the country and send home some amount to help their family. And where altering documents seems to be the way out of poverty, families hinge on recruiters to lay the ground work for them to be able to get out and work in foreign shores.
These are not new. Every day, thousands are leaving their hometowns in the hope that things would get better. In some cases, the living condition of their families left home improves. Slowly, houses are built and children are sent to school, adequate meals are provided and there is a little left for recreation.
Not everything is rosy though. Such as the case of overseas foreign worker like Apple Gamale, 23 years old from Lupon Davao Oriental who mysteriously died after two days in Singapore or of other OFWs who are having a hard time with their employer abroad.
This only goes to shows that there remains a challenge for government agencies to demonstrate greater progress on efficiently investigating, prosecuting, and convicting both labor and trafficking offenders in the country and abroad.
From recruitment to the actual time when OFWs leave to the time they reach another country, mechanism has to be in place to ensure their protection and safety. There is space for improvement in terms of increasing efforts to engage governments of destination countries and in ensuring the Memorandum of Understanding (MOUs) with those hiring the workers to ensure that the rights of overseas workers are adequately protected. Another strand could be on the field of disseminating information on the 2003 Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act throughout the country and train lawmakers, including communities to adequately respond.
This is a tall order especially when traffickers, in partnership with organized crime syndicates and complicit law enforcement officers, regularly operate through local recruiters sent to barangays and urban neighborhoods to recruit.
Reports indicate that organized crime syndicates were heavily involved in the commercial sex industry, and when recruited and honed in the local level, they are trafficked and subjected to violence, threats, inhumane living conditions, non-payment of salaries, and withholding of travel and identity documents.
There is hardly a choice for those like Fe who lack the information and the opportunity to live a more decent life. Recent reports shows that the country remains to be a source, transit and destination for human trafficking. Where 300,000 to 400,000 women are trafficked and the number of trafficked children range from 60,000 to 100,000, something ought to be done. Email comments to firstname.lastname@example.org
Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on May 17, 2012.