BI on alert for Filipino workers illegally deployed to Iraq

Robie de Guzman   •   November 29, 2019   •   205

MANILA, Philippines – The Bureau of Immigration (BI) on Friday ordered its officers at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) and other ports in the country to be on alert following reports of possible deployment of Filipino workers to Iraq by human trafficking syndicates.

In a statement, immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente ordered immigration officials to rigidly screen overseas Filipino workers (OFW) traveling to Dubai which was allegedly used by human traffickers as a transit point for the deployment of Filipino workers to Iraq.

Morente’s order came after the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) alerted the bureau on the alleged recruitment of OFWs by syndicates through social media.

The BI cited reports on online ads for newly-opened job vacancies in Iraq which falsely claim that the deployment ban in Iraq has already been lifted.

“Immigration officers are directed to exercise extra vigilance in clearing the departure of Filipino travelers bound for Dubai, particularly those who are departing as tourists, and make sure that they are not going to other foreign destinations in order to work,” Morente said in his directive to BI Port Operations Division (POD) chief Grifton Medina.

The immigration chief also directed airport officers to monitor names of several OFWs who were allegedly illegally recruited to work as restaurant waiters in Baghdad.

“Be sure that none of these illegal OFWs disguised as tourists are able to leave the country. They should be stopped and turned over to the IACAT (Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking) if encountered, for their protection,” Morente said.

Medina also shared information from the Philippine Embassy in Baghdad, which states that the said recruits were already issued visas authorizing them to work in Iraq.

“There are also reports that Iraq-bound OFWs are deployed there by first sending them off as tourists to Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur before they proceed to Baghdad,” Medina said.

The illegally-recruited Filipino workers pay the deployment cost of their recruiters through salary deduction, which according to Morente, is a form of human trafficking through debt-bondage.

“These illegal recruiters will sweet-talk their victims, encouraging them to take the job offers while the costs will be deducted from their salaries,” he said.

“When they get to their worksites, many are enslaved, given meager salaries, and made to work more than they supposed to in order to pay off their alleged debt,” he added.

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US soldiers injured in Iran’s attack on Iraqi military bases

UNTV News   •   January 17, 2020

US soldiers stand next to the damage caused by Iran’s missile attack inside Ain al-Assad air base in Anbar province, Iraq, 14 January 2020. EPA-EFE FILE/STR

Washington, DC — Eleven United States soldiers were injured in the Jan. 8 Iranian bombing of a military base in Iraq in retaliation for the killing of Qasem Soleimani in a targeted strike, the US Central Command said in a statement Thursday.

Initially, the Pentagon had said that the attack had not caused any injuries but now, after re-evaluating the victims, it has identified some symptoms of possible concussions due to the force of the impact of the missiles.

“While no US service members were killed in the Jan. 8 Iranian attack on Al Asad air base, several were treated for concussion symptoms from the blast and are still being assessed,” Centcom spokesperson Bill Urban said in a statement.

“Out of an abundance of caution,” in the days following the attack, eight soldiers were transported from the Al Asad air base in western Iraq to the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, while three others were sent to Camp Arifjan in Kuwait for follow-on screening, the official said.

“When deemed fit for duty, the service members are expected to return to Iraq following screening,” he added.

After the attack on the air base, Iran warned that it was only the beginning of a series of retaliatory actions it would take to avenge the death of Soleimani, the commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps’ elite Quds Force and a highly respected figure in the Persian county, in a US targeted strike in Baghdad on Jan. 3.

At the time, US President Donald Trump chose not to respond to the Iranian offensive with military force and said in a speech to the nation that he would impose more sanctions against Iran.

Those sanctions were directed against eight senior Iranian officials, including Iran’s Supreme National Security Council secretary Ali Shamkhani, as well as against the country’s steel, iron, aluminum and copper industry.

“The United States is targeting senior Iranian officials for their involvement and complicity in Tuesday’s ballistic missile strikes,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin had said in a statement outlining the sanctions.

“We are also designating Iran’s largest metals manufacturers, and imposing sanctions on new sectors of the Iranian economy including construction, manufacturing, and mining,” he added.

Tehran and Washington, which have had no diplomatic relations since 1979, have experienced multiple crises since Trump ordered the US’ exit from a landmark multilateral agreement on Tehran’s nuclear program in 2018.

The current escalation of tension coincides with the downing of a Ukrainian aircraft by the Islamic Republic, which caused the death of all 176 people aboard. EFE-EPA

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Two Filipinos trafficked into Iraq back in PH – DFA

Robie de Guzman   •   January 17, 2020

DFA-OUMWA welcomes home two more Filipinos from Baghdad, Iraq. Both are victims of human trafficking. The Philippine government shouldered their airfare and exit visa. Fifteen Filipinos have been brought home since mandatory repatriation of Filipinos in Iraq was declared on January 8, 2020.

MANILA, Philippines – Two Filipino women who were trafficked into Iraq have returned to the Philippines, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said Friday.

In a statement, the DFA said the two females who repatriated from Baghdad, Iraq arrived at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport on Friday afternoon.

Department representatives welcomed the two repatriates who were both victims of human trafficking.

The DFA said a total of 15 Filipinos have been brought home since the government ordered for mandatory repatriation of Filipino workers in Iraq last January 8.

The mandatory evacuation order was triggered by the hoisting of alert level 4 due to the security threats in the Middle East.

The alert level for Filipinos in Iraq was raised after Iran launched a series of ballistic missile attacks on Iraq’s bases, where US forces were located.

Iran’s firing of rockets was in retaliation for the death of top military general Qassem Soleimani, who was killed in a US drone strike in Baghdad last January 3.

On the same day, more than 170 passengers were killed after Iran shot down a Ukrainian plane while on alert after its missile attack against US forces.

First batch of Filipinos repatriated from Iraq to arrive in PH Wednesday

Robie de Guzman   •   January 15, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The first batch of Filipino workers repatriated from Iraq will arrive on Wednesday afternoon, January 15, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said.

In a statement, 13 Filipinos evacuated from Baghdad and Erbil in Iraq will arrive in Manila.

The DFA said the first group from Baghdad, comprised of seven adults and two minors were supposed to arrive on Tuesday but was held by Iraqi immigration officials at the Baghdad International Airport for “baseless allegations of visa fraud.”

The second group is composed of four adults coming from Erbil, north of Baghdad.

The department said the repatriated Filipinos will be landing in Doha, Qatar before flying to Manila. They are scheduled to land at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 3 at 4:10 p.m.

“The repatriates arriving today comprise the first batch of Filipinos coming home after the government ordered mandatory repatriation,” DFA Undersecretary for Migrant Workers’ Affairs Sarah Lou Arriola said in a statement.

“More Filipinos from affected areas are expected to come home in the coming weeks,” Arriola added.

Alert Level 4, which mandates mandatory repatriation of Filipinos in Iraq, was raised on January 8, 2020, due to growing security threats in the Middle East.

The tension grew after top Iranian military commander Qassem Solemanei was killed by a US drone strike in Baghdad on January 3.

Iran retaliated on January 8 by launching a series of ballistic missile attacks at Iraq’s bases housing US troops. On the same day, around 176 passengers were killed when a Ukrainian plane was mistakenly shot down by Iran while on alert after its missile attacks on US forces in Iraq.

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