BI on alert for Filipino workers illegally deployed to Iraq

Robie de Guzman   •   November 29, 2019   •   343

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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Iraq seeks new rules in sharing future OPEC+ cuts

UNTV News   •   June 8, 2020

Iraq affirmed its commitment to the OPEC+ oil production cut deal but asked the group to take into consideration the members’ economic situation in sharing the burden of future cuts, Iraqi Finance Minister Ali Allawi said on Sunday (June 7).

“We are seeking to set new rules in future over sharing burden among state members by considering the economic situation and living standards,” said Allawi.

OPEC, Russia and allies agreed on Saturday (June 6) to extend record oil production cuts by one month until the end of July, after the group held a video conference.

The group, known as OPEC+, also demanded countries such as Nigeria and Iraq, which exceeded production quotas in May and June, compensate with extra cuts in July to September. (Reuters)

(Production: Maher Nazeh, Mohammed Katfan, Charlotte Bruneau)

Public cafes closed amid coronavirus fears in Iraq

UNTV News   •   March 3, 2020

Cafes and other public places were closed in Erbil, Iraq on Monday (March 2) amid fears of the coronavirus. Also, people coming into the northern city from other parts of Iraq had their temperature taken as a precaution.

The Health Ministry had earlier issued a warning urging all Iraqis to avoid any public gatherings, including protests, religious ceremonies and social events. Many of the cafes, restaurants and shops in Erbil remained closed. And only a handful of customers visited the businesses that were open.

The Health Ministry reported two new cases of coronavirus on Monday, bringing the total of recorded cases inside Iraq to 21.

Iraq’s first case was an Iranian student who has since been sent back to Iran. The other 20 are all Iraqis who had recently visited Iran. (Reuters Connect)

(Production: Kawa Omar, Maher Nazeh, Mohammed Katfan, Angela Moore)

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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