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Don’t be too eager to offload OFWs, recruiters urge immigration men

By: - Reporter / @JeromeAningINQ
/ 07:10 AM November 26, 2011

MANILA, Philippines—Immigration agents at the country’s international airports should not just offload Filipino workers holding overseas employment certificates (OECs) on the mere suspicion that these are fake, leaders of recruitment groups said on Friday.

The recruiters said this Friday at a forum hosted by the government’s Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking, which has been tasked by Vice President Jejomar Binay to create a technical working group review the Bureau of Immigration’s (BI) authority to offload overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) suspected of being undocumented or victims of human trafficking.

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The OEC, issued by the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA), serves as proof that its holder is a documented OFW whose employment abroad has been certified compliant with the agency’s deployment regulations.

However, airport immigration officers have been unjustly overzealous in offloading departing OFWs on mere suspicion that the OECs are fake, according to the recruiters who included recruitment consultant Emmanuel Geslani, Victor Fernandez of the Philippine Association of Service Exporters, Alfredo Palmiery of the Federated Association of Manpower Exporters, and Lita Hizon of the Coalition of Legitimate Agencies Deploying Domestics.

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They said the proposed offloading guidelines of the Bureau of Immigration contained “redundant and incoherent layers” of requirements which give immigration agents wide discretion to interrogate departing OFWs.

These requirements are unnecessary since the departing OFW has already passed through the Labor Assistance Center (LAC) which verifies and approves the travel documents of the OFW whose OEC has already been processed at the POEA, they said.

Workers’ rights

Geslani said immigration agents were not only violating OFWs right to travel but also their right to seek gainful employment when they miss their flights and could not report to duty on time because they were offloaded.

“The OEC should be respected by the BI since the POEA is the sole authority on workers leaving for jobs abroad, not the BI. The immigration agents should not deny OFWs the opportunity to work abroad based on mere suspicion. They should not require documented workers to present other proofs of employment aside from the OEC,” Geslani said.

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The recruiters pointed out that before an OEC is issued, the OFW has to provide various documents such as their authenticated employment contract, employment or work permit card, passport, two-way ticket or itinerary issued by the travel agency, proof of membership with the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration, and latest receipt of Pag-Ibig Fund membership contributions.

“The frequent off-loading of some OFWs due to the indiscriminate decisions of the agents—because they were suspicious of the OFW’s travel documents or they had profiled OFW as an illegal—have resulted in the loss of job opportunities for OFWs,” Geslani said.

The delays in the departure translates to “huge expenses” for the recruitment agencies since they have to repurchase new tickets for the workers, and some delays have caused some employers to cancel the job orders, he said.

The recruiters recommended that the draft guidelines proposed by the BI should be divided into two sections—one for tourists and the other for fully documented workers carrying genuine and valid OECs.

The POEA reestablished the LAC at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport early this year to serve as a clearing house where documents of departing OFWs are checked and verified.

Geslani said an OFW who has been cleared by the LAC should not anymore be questioned on his destination, documents, travel money, or sponsors aside from checking the appropriate visa for the country of destination.

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TAGS: Human trafficking, immigration agents, Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking, international airports, overseas employment certificates (OECs), Overseas Filipino workers, Vice President Jejomar Binay
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