Filipinas saved from abusive employer in Baghdad

SOME 10 Filipinas were repatriated to Manila after they were rescued from abusive employer in Iraq's Kurdistan region.

The Philippine Embassy in Baghdad said in a statement that the Filipinas were employees in a spa in Erbil owned by a Lebanese national.

Charge d'Affaires Elmer Cato said the women work 12 hours, seven days a week with only three hours off once a week.

They were paid only $300 monthly of the $500 that was promised them and get deductions ranging from $100 to $500 for infractions such as smoking, taking naps or even failing to clean the toilet properly.

Cato said the women were also subjected to what is tantamount to debt bondage.

"For the small amount they were making, there was no way these women would have been able to raise the $10,000 their employer wanted them to pay if they return to the Philippines before the end of their two-year employment contract."

The embassy has been monitoring the establishment as early as June this year when two Filipinas ran away, and reported the exploitation and abuse they suffered from their employer.

The two were eventually repatriated after the embassy sought the assistance of the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs of the Kurdistan Regional Government.

The embassy approached the Ministry of Interior of the Kurdistan Regional Government, "which immediately brought the 10 Filipinas to a shelter, closed the establishment, arrested the employer, and filed a case against him in court."

"We want to send a strong signal to everyone that here in Kurdistan, we follow the law and will not tolerate the exploitation and abuse of migrant workers,” Dr. Sami Jalal Hussein, director general of the Ministry of Interior, said.

He was personally directed by Interior Minister Karim Sinjari to resolve the case.

The embassy expressed its appreciation to the Kurdistan Regional Government for the successful rescue of the 10 Filipinas as well as for the arrest of their employer and the closure of his establishment.

"Our 10 kababayans are now on their way home because of the strong support and cooperation extended to us by the Kurdistan Regional Government of the Republic of Iraq," Cato said.

The embassy also expressed its appreciation to the International Organization for Migration (IOM) for "the crucial role it played in the repatriation of the victims who were subjected to exploitative and abusive conditions" at the Erbil spa.

Cato said Director General Hussein and his team from the Directorate for Combatting Violence Against Women played a crucial role in the swift resolution of the case.

"They showed great concern for our nationals and we are very grateful for their help," he added.

He also expressed appreciation to the assistance by the IOM.

For its part, Dr. Thomas Weiss, IOM Chief of Mission in Iraq, said the organization is pleased it could assist the Kurdistan Regional Government and the Philippine Embassy in Iraq "to ensure the safe return of the vulnerable migrant women." (CVB/Sunnex)

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