Tuesday, January 18, 2011

8 distressed OFWs arrive from Lebanon, says DFA

Eight more distressed overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) was repatriated from Lebanon Tuesday afternoon, bringing the total number of OFWs repatriated from that country in the last seven months to 449.

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said the eight — deported after serving jail terms — comprised the sixth batch of repatriates from Lebanon.

“The eight OFWs are the sixth batch of repatriates from Lebanon. The Filipinos have completed their jail terms and are all deportees. A batch of 15 Filipinos arrived from Lebanon last January 16," the DFA said in a
news release on its website.

It said representatives from the DFA-Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs (DFA-OUMWA) and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) were on hand to assist the OFWs upon their arrival at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.

The repatriated OFWs left their employers ahead of the conclusion of their contracts and sought shelter at the Filipino Workers Resource Center (FWRC) because of abuse by their employers, non-payment of their salaries, and maltreatment, the DFA said.

Deployment ban

Philippine Ambassador to Beirut Gilberto Asuque said that for the first time, there are no OFWs staying at the FWRC for shelter.

Asuque reported that almost all of the 449 OFW repatriates defied the total deployment ban to Lebanon, which was enforced since June 18, 2007.

“In the light of these sad experiences of the OFWs, Ambassador Asuque reiterated his appeal to all Filipinos who wish to work abroad to observe the deployment ban and to avoid illegal recruiters whose only aim is to collect his or her commission for each OFW deployed to Lebanon and who will not take any responsibility for whatever happens to the OFW nor assist in the repatriation," the DFA said.

The Philippines and Lebanon are currently negotiating a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on Labor Cooperation that will provide the protection for OFWs in Lebanon in accordance with the requirements of Republic Act 10022 of 2010, or the Amended Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act of 1995.

Asuque said Lebanon’s Ministry of Labor will submit to the parliament a proposed legislation specifically for foreign migrant workers that would regulate the recruitment of these workers and protect their rights.

“Without a bilateral labor agreement or a Lebanese law to protect OFWs, the current deployment ban to Lebanon remains," Asuque said.

He said the ban will be reviewed once the MOU with Lebanon is signed or the law for migrant workers is passed by the Lebanese parliament.

ATN funds

The DFA said 405 of the OFWs were repatriated using the Assistance to National (ATN) funds of the DFA and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA). The rest were repatriated during the same period but with the airline tickets purchased by the employer, the recruitment agency or the worker's relative in Lebanon.

The DFA said the 405 distressed OFWs returned to Manila in six batches —161 in the first batch that arrived in Manila last June 29; 112 last Nov. 15; 50 last Nov. 16; 59 last Jan. 12; and 15 last Jan. 16.

The 405 OFW repatriates had been sheltered at the FWRC and Caritas Lebanon Migrants Center or were detained in various jails for deportation.

The Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) and OWWA in Beirut negotiated with the employers or recruitment agencies of the 44 distressed OFWs sheltered in the FWRC for the issuance of their release papers and the purchase of their airline tickets.

Also, the Embassy’s ATN section, POLO and OWWA made representations in securing the permits of the 449 OFWs from the Lebanese immigration.

Deployment costs per worker and immigration penalties were waived. – KBK/VS, GMANews.TV

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